BACKGROUND: The increased prevalence in recent childhood obesity rates raises concern about youth health and the role that lack of physical activity plays in this trend. A focus on how children today choose to spend their discretionary time is one approach that may yield ideas for how to reduce childhood obesity. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether 3 separate recess activities of the week (RAWs) would make a difference in children's discretionary time physical activity levels.
METHODS: Children (N = 65: 30 boys, 35 girls; 32 first and second graders; 33 third and fourth graders; 45 healthy body mass index [BMI], 20 overweight BMI) at 1 Midwest elementary school wore pedometers for each 15-minute morning recess period for 4 weeks. Following 1 no RAW (#1), a new RAW was introduced each subsequent week: #2, circuit course; #3, obstacle course; and #4, Frisbees.
RESULTS: Repeated measures factorial analysis of variance results revealed that children were significantly more active during the no RAW and circuit course week than the Frisbee week. Males were significantly more physically active than females during the obstacle course week. Older children were significantly more active during the Frisbee week than younger children. Healthy BMI children were significantly more physically active during the circuit course week than children in the overweight/obese BMI category.
CONCLUSIONS: Results imply that it is important for schools to consider demographic factors in the creation of recess opportunities to increase physical activity.