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The characteristics of the outdoor school environment associated with physical activity

Summary


Students with more outdoor school facilities are more likely to participate in daily physical activity at recess

Haug and colleagues investigated the relationship between physical environmental characteristics of school grounds and children’s physical activity during school breaks. Researchers had over 16,000 students in 4th through 10th grades from 130 schools in Norway complete questionnaires about their physical activity during school classes and recess. Researchers also had principals at each school complete a questionnaire about the school environment and recess opportunities. In analyzing the data, Haug and colleagues found that boys were more active than girls at recess. For example, with regard to primary school children (grades 4-7), 73% of boys and 57% of girls reported that they were physically active during recess. In addition, researchers found that girls’ and boys’ physical activity peaked in Grade 6 and then declined. With regard to the relationship between physical environmental characteristics and children’s physical activity, Haug and colleagues discovered that secondary level students (grades 8-10) were almost three times as likely to participate in daily physical activity during recess if they had a larger number of outdoor facilities at their school. In particular, researchers found that soccer fields, areas for hopscotch/skipping rope, playground equipment and sledding hills supported more physical activity among secondary school boys, while sledding hills supported more physical activity among secondary school girls. Haug and colleagues did not find any relationship between physical environmental characteristics and primary school children’s physical activity and discuss several possible reasons for this finding, including less variability in terms of physical activity participation and facility availability.

Citation

Haug, E., Torsheim, T., Sallis, J. F., Samdal, O., (2010). The characteristics of the outdoor school environment associated with physical activity. Health Education Research, 25(2), 248.

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