Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Quantifying Physical Activity in First- through Fourth-Grade Physical Education Via Pedometry

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Quantifying Physical Activity in First- through Fourth-Grade Physical Education Via Pedometry

Article excerpt

The aim of this study was to determine pedometry steps per minute (SPM) cutscores that accurately quantify physical activity (PA) time in first- through fourth-grade physical education. A total of 257 participants were grouped in two data pools, first- and second-grade (n = 126), and third- and fourth-grade (n = 131). Systematic observation was the PA criterion instrument and pedometry was the predictor instrument. Correlations between physical activity measures were strong (r =. 82-.89, p < .01). Ten min of PA and 33.33% of the lesson time engaged in PA within a 30-min class can be quantified by 61-63 SPM for first- and second-grade, and 58-61 SPM for third- and fourth-grade. In conclusion: (a) SPM values were a valid indicator of students achieving or not achieving PA criteria, and (b) pedometry is a valid and practical tool for physical activity surveillance within physical education.

Key words: measurement, moderate to vigorous, observation, surveillance


Monitoring and increasing school site physical activity is important for the United States health promotion initiative (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1997; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2000; USDHHS/ U.S. Department of Education [USDE], 2000). For the adolescent population, the objective is for students to be physically active for at least 50% of the physical education class time (USDHHS, 2000). For children, one session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) lasting 10-15 min (i.e., 33-50% of a 30-rain class) with brief rest and recovery within the session would be appropriate for elementary physical education (Council on Physical Education for Children [COPEC], 2004). Large-scale activity monitoring and increasing school site physical activity requires assessment of physical activity to be objective, valid, and practical (Kohl, Fulton, & Caspersen, 2000; Trost, 2001). However, there is currently no objective or valid physical activity surveillance system in place to assess students' physical activity levels during elementary physical education. The self-report Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (2002) is used to monitor the physical activity behavior only of adolescents in physical education. Students are asked, "During an average physical education class, how many minutes do you spend actually exercising or playing sports?" (p. 21). Whether children or adolescents, it is questionable as to the accuracy with which absolute minutes of activity can be reported (Sallis & Saelens, 2000; Sallis et al., 1996).

To eliminate measurement errors of self-report (e.g., individual biases, recall, etc.), the current focus in field physical activity surveillance is toward the more objective techniques of motion sensing. Recent scientific reviews and studies have supported this contention (e.g., Trost, 2001; Tudor-Locke, Williams, Reis, & Pluto, 2002; Welk, Corbin, & Dale, 2000). Accelerometry and pedometry have been valid physical activity measurement tools (Kohl et al., 2000; Tudor-Locke et al., 2002; Trost, 2001). The use of pedometry as an activity surveillance tool in physical education currently holds the most promise for implementation due to validity, cost, and practicality (e.g., surveillance and daily use).

Scruggs et al. (2003) examined the validity of pedometry as a physical activity surveillance instrument in first- through second-grade physical education. Pedometer steps per minute (SPM) was an accurate indicator of students achieving 10 min of MVPA during 30 min of physical education (i.e., 60-63 SPM equal to 10 min of MVPA within a 30-rain class). The relationship between observation and SPM was strong (r= .73-.86, p = .000). Scruggs et al. recommended that pedometer SPM criteria be established for all physical education grade school levels.

By establishing empirically derived SPM criteria cutscores for quantifying time students spend physically active in physical education, large-scale surveillance can be conducted to collect objective data relative to activity guidelines. …

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