Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Physical Activity Levels and Attitudes toward Physical Activity and Eating Habits in an Urban Elementary School Setting

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Physical Activity Levels and Attitudes toward Physical Activity and Eating Habits in an Urban Elementary School Setting

Article excerpt


Childhood obesity has become a health epidemic in the United States. Based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reports, approximately 16.9 % of children in 2009-2010 are obese (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2012). In the elementary school setting, approximately 20.1% of boys and 15.7% of girls are defined as being obese. Being overweight or obese during childhood has significant ramifications for adulthood. Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults compared to non-obese children (Serdula et al., 1993). Additionally, the antecedents for many chronic health conditions such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, and Type II diabetes that present in adulthood are developed during youth, which may be accelerated with obesity (Dietz, 1998; Kavey et al., 2003). Lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet and physical inactivity, have been recognized as risk factors for a multitude of chronic health conditions, including obesity. Both diet and physical activity are critical components to the energy balance equation. While controversy may exist regarding which aspect plays a more dominant role, proper management of both components can assist one in achieving a healthy body weight and reduce the onset of chronic diseases.

More recently, a lack of physical activity associated with compromised health and well being has been termed Exercise Deficit Disorder (EDD; Faigenbaum & Myer, 2012). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), current physical activity recommendations are for children to accrue daily a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (CDC, 2011). Identifying children who do not meet such recommendations is considered an important initial step in the battle against EDD; however, just as important, is understanding why recommendations are not being met. Exploring children's attitudes toward physical activity can potentially provide some insight and can lead to further knowledge regarding potential causes and assist the development of more effective intervention strategies (Faigenbaum & Myer, 2012; Sallis, Prochaska, & Taylor, 2000).

Faighenbaum and Myer (2012) suggested a multidisciplinary approach is most appropriate for tackling EDD. This includes involvement of schools (physical educators), health care providers, and parents to identify children who do not meet physical activity recommendations. The current study collaborated with a physical education teacher in an elementary school setting to examine physical activity levels through the use of pedometers. Recommended step counts per day by gender have been established to allow for simple comparisons of physical activity levels of children 6-12 (Tudor-Locke et al., 2004). Daily step-counts of 15,000 for males and 12,000 for females were optimal in relation to physical activity levels to establish a healthy body weight. Current data suggest activity rates are lower in at-risk children, which can be defined as children who come from economically challenged backgrounds and can include minority groups and single-parent families (Crespo et al., 2000; King et al., 2000). The purpose of the current study was to examine the physical activity levels among urban children living in a low economic setting, as well as attitude toward physical activity and eating habits.



Participants (N = 61) were 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at an elementary school in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA. Body Mass Index (BMI) was calculated based on direct measurements of height and weight. Average BMI among students was 19.58 kg/m2 (+ 3.99 kg/m2). Approximately 75% of the students at the elementary school come from low income families, which is more than double the state average at 35%, see Table 1 for additional Demographic School Data. Data were collected during the 2011-2012 year; total enrollment was 281. Permission to collect data was received by Institutional Review Board of at the first author's institution and the Assessment, Research and Accountability Office of Springfield Public Schools. …

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