Physically active academic lessons and on-task behavior in preadolescent children : effects of physical activity intensity
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Past research has shown classroom lessons incorporating physical activity (10-15 minutes in duration) to improve on-task behavior in children (Mahar, 2006; Grieco, Bartholomew & Jowers, 2009). However, no study to date has examined the levels of physical activity required to elicit this response. As such, the present study was designed to assess the effects of physically active, academic lessons of varying intensity, set in game-type format, on academic engagement of preadolescent children in the classroom setting. Time spent on-task (measured through direct observation) served as the primary outcome variable and assessed by means of a two (time: pre-, post-lesson) x four [condition: inactive lesson (physical activity control); sedentary academic game (interest control); low-to-moderate intensity physically active academic game; moderate-to-vigorous intensity physically active academic game] repeated measures design. Participants were third, fourth and fifth grade children from two elementary schools in central Texas (7 to 11 years of age). Physical activity was measured using Actigraph GT1M accelerometers (Fort Walton Beach, FL). Demographic data were collected for each participant on gender, age, ethnicity, height and weight (BMI calculated). Results indicated that the students’ TOT decreased significantly after a traditional seated control lesson. TOT did not change following the inactive control game. Thus, the competitive, seated game was sufficient to prevent the reduction in TOT that followed the traditional, seated control. In contrast, both physically active games were sufficient to increase TOT. Both had a significant increase in TOT relative to each control condition. In addition, the effect of the MVPA game was nearly three times the effect of the LMPA game.