In-school physical activity patterns of primary school learners from disadvantaged schools in South Africa
Guidelines for the maintenance of health and wellbeing in children recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily. In South Africa, community sport and recreation facilities and opportunities are meagre in areas previously disadvantaged by apartheid, so schools should be primary sites for enabling children to meet these recommendations. However, physical education has been marginalized in the curriculum and extra-curricular sports provision has declined. The purpose of this study was to investigate children’s school day physical activity patterns in relation to meeting daily recommended guidelines. A total of 112 children (boys n=53; girls n=59), from Grades 3 to 6 (aged 8 to 12) from 3 disadvantaged schools participated in the study. Physical activity, representing the whole school day and recess, was measured over 5 days using ActiGraphaccelerometers. Qualitative interviews were conducted on a subsample of 20 learners. The results indicated that children accumulated 35 minutes of in-school MVPA, contributing 58% of the 60 minutes of MVPA a day recommendation. Recess accounted for 37% of in-school MVPA. Boys participated in significantly more in-school MVPA than girls (boys=38.47 ± 16.10 min, girls=32.59 ± 14.03 min). Almost 90% of Grade 6s failed to accumulate 30 minutes of MVPA. Low levels of in-school MVPA among girls and the marked decline at Grade 6 are disturbing. Schools should be pivotal in the provision of physical activity to combat the health risks associated with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Schools need to increase PA through the provision of quality physical education and find cost effective ways of promoting school-day PA.
Keywords: Physical activity, health, school childre
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