, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 359-371

Physical Activity Levels of Children during School Playtime

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Abstract

School represents a suitable setting for intervention programmes aiming to promote physical activity to benefit health. During the school day, physical education and school playtime offer children regular opportunities to engage in physical activity. However, there is growing concern that, internationally, curricular time allocated to physical education is not meeting statutory guidelines. The effectiveness of the playground environment to promote physical activity has been considered as a complementary setting to physical education.

Physical activity guidelines state that children should engage in at least 1 hour of moderate intensity physical activity a day. Currently no empirically tested guidelines exist for physical activity levels during playtime. However, studies cited in this article indicate that playtime can contribute between 5–40% of recommended daily physical activity levels when no interventions have been utilised.

The limited school-based investigations that have been reported in the literature suggest that boys engage in more physical activity during playtime than girls. Studies that have implemented intervention strategies in order to promote physical activity levels indicate that playtime can substantially contribute towards daily optimal physical activity guidelines. Energy expenditure and physical activity levels have increased during playtime following the implementation of playtime-based interventions. In order to advance knowledge of children’s physical activity during playtime, a number of key issues for consideration in future research are detailed. Research on children’s use of playtime to be physically active and the extent of the contribution of playtime to daily physical activity guidelines is warranted.