Does the playground environment matter? Physical activity levels of 5 to 11 year olds in the school playground - an observational case study

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Background: Physical activity (PA) has numerous health benefits in school-aged children and youth. Current recommendations suggest children should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) for an average of at least 60 minutes a day over the course of the week. The aim of this study was to identify the areas of the playground that children chose to visit at break-times, and the contextual variables present in these areas, whilst exploring the relationship between the varied playground environment and the levels of PA. Methods: The playground of a culturally diverse primary school in the north east of England was observed during break-time using systematic observation methods. Target areas of the playground were identified and observed using the System for Observing Play and Leisure in Youth (SOPLAY) for the number of sedentary, light physical activity, and MVPA episodes, and the contexts in which they occurred. Results: Areas promoting sport had a higher number of boys (mean ± SD; 9.9 ± 4.8) compared to girls (2.0 ± 3.5) and areas promoting social interaction had a higher number of girls (7.9 ± 7.2) compared to boys (3.5 ± 2.9) present during break-time. The proportion of MVPA episodes on the playground during break-time was 34% ± 26%. In playground areas with organised activities the count of MVPA episodes was 2.70 (95%CI: 1.87 to 3.91) times that observed when the area was ‘not organised’. Areas that were ‘supervised’ were associated with 1.34 (1.18 to 1.53) times the MVPA counts compared to areas that were ‘not supervised’. Conclusion: These observations suggest that the contexts in which children play might influence physical activity levels in the primary school playground. The impact of structured play and playground supervision of the primary school playground on physical activity levels of children during break-time warrants further examination.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019
EventTeesside University Postgraduate Conference 2019 - Teesside University , Middlesbrough
Duration: 13 Sep 201913 Sep 2019


ConferenceTeesside University Postgraduate Conference 2019

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