Frequency and intensity of activity of third-grade children in physical education

Jay Belsky, Cathryn Booth, Robert Bradley, Celia A. Brownell, Susan B. Campbell, Alison Clarke-Stewart, Sarah L. Friedman, Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Renate M. Houts, Aletha Huston, Bonnie Knoke, Kathleen McCartney, Thomas L. McKenzie, Fred Morrison, Philip R. Nader, Marion O'Brien, Chris Payne, Ross D. Parke, Margaret Tresch Owen, Deborah PhillipsRobert Pianta, Susan Spieker, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Wendy Wagner Robeson, Marsha Weinraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Background: Health recommendations are for preadolescent children to have daily school physical education (PE) classes that engage children in moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 50% of class time. Objective: To observe activity of children in PE classes in third grades across 10 different sites. Design: Observational study. Setting: Six hundred eighty-four elementary schools in 10 sites. Subjects: A total of 814 children (414 boys, 400 girls; mean age, 9.0 years) enrolled in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Methods: Each child was observed during 1 scheduled PE class. Main Outcome Measure: The SOFIT (System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time) observation method, a validated, heart rate observation system, yields levels of activity the child is engaged in as well as the lesson context, type of teacher, and location of the PE class. Results: Children averaged 2.1 PE lessons per week, of 33 minutes each. Only 5.9% of children had daily PE. Children accrued 4.8 very active and 11.9 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per PE lesson, 15.0% and 37.0% of lesson time, respectively. Lesson length and number of minutes per week were similar for boys and girls; however, boys spent proportionately more PE time in very active and moderate to vigorous activity. This resulted in boys having a higher energy expenditure rate than girls. Conclusion: Children observed in this study received 25 min/wk of moderate to vigorous activity in school PE, falling far short of national recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-190
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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