What's Physical Activity Got to Do With It? Social Trends in Less Active Students at Recess

Amelia Mays Woods, Gabriella M. McLoughlin, Ben D. Kern, Kim C. Graber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Public health concerns regarding childhood obesity and sedentary behavior make investigations of children's physical activity (PA) promotion crucial. School recess, a highly discretional time, plays a central role in shaping children's activity preferences. METHODS: Participants included 40 children (30 girls, 10 boys) from fourth and fifth grades, categorized as low active during recess (<26% moderate-to-vigorous PA [MVPA]). PA was measured via accelerometer (Actigraph wGT3X+) and activity choice gauged through a self-report measure over a 3-day period. To assess attitudes and perceptions of recess, individual interviews were conducted. Accelerometer data were analyzed into minutes and percentage of MVPA; interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed utilizing open and axial coding. RESULTS: Participants were active for 18% of recess, choosing activities that were primarily individual-based. Interview data showed low active children attribute recess enjoyment to social interaction and time away from schoolwork as well as an intention to avoid other children who were unkind and/or caused social conflict. CONCLUSIONS: This study supports the importance of gaining a child's perspective of their own behavior, particularly those children classified as less active. Findings add a unique contribution to school health research through an innovative, child-centered approach to explore perceptions of PA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-507
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • physical activity
  • public health
  • recess
  • school health
  • social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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