BACKGROUND: School recess provides a daily opportunity for physical activity engagement. The purpose of this study was to examine physical activity levels during recess by gender, ethnicity, and grade, and establish the contribution of recess to daily school physical activity levels.
METHODS: Two hundred and ten children (45% boys) from grades 3 to 6 in 4 elementary schools had their physical activity during school quantified using uni-axial accelerometry every 5 seconds for 5 consecutive school days. Data were collected in fall 2009. The proportion of time spent engaged in physical activity during daily school recess was determined using existing age-appropriate cutpoints. The relative contribution of recess to school day physical activity was also determined.
RESULTS: Boys were more active than girls during recess. Girls engaged in more sedentary activity than boys. No main effects for ethnicity were observed. Children in grades 3 and 5 were more active than children in grades 4 and 6. Recess contributed 17.9% and 15.5% toward boys' and girls' school day moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, respectively.
CONCLUSION: Children engaged in physical activity during recess, though interventions may be needed to increase the intensity of activity in this context.