Predictors of physical activity during recess
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Recess is a fundamental part of the school-day with the opportunity for children to participate in physical activity (PA). Substantial variability exists in the time and percent children spend in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during recess, suggesting the need to understand what variables predict recess PA. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between individual-level and school-level variables and recess PA with a large and diverse student and school sample. Participants were 1,728 Central Texas fourth graders from 19 schools, part of the Texas Initiative for Children’s Activity and Nutrition (I-CAN!). One school-week of children’s PA was collected using triaxial accelerometers between 2013 and 2015. Percent time and weekly time in MVPA during recess were calculated, and a mixed model was fit to the data to account for the hierarchical nature of the data. After calculating intra-class correlations (ICCs), schools accounted for a significant amount of the variance in percent time (ICC = 0.30 (95% CI: 0.18, 0.46)) and weekly time in MVPA (ICC =.23 (95% CI: 0.13, 0.37)). Gender (p<0.0001), bad weather (p≤0.024), and fitness (p<0.0001) were all significant predictors of recess MVPA in both models, with boys being more active than girls, bad weather negatively predicting recess MVPA, and fitness positively predicting recess MVPA. An interaction between fitness and gender was observed (p = 0.005) with fitness being more associated with boys’ recess MVPA than girls’ in the weekly MVPA model, but not in the percent MVPA model. Our study is the first to find that recess MVPA is related to fitness. Although a significant amount of the variance in recess MVPA was attributed to schools, the only school-level variable that significantly predicted recess MVPA was bad weather. This suggests that other school-level variables not in our study, like unfixed equipment and the social environment, might mediate recess PA and warrant further study to better inform recess policy.