Investigating elementary school children’s daily physical activity and sedentary behaviours during weekdays

Zan Gao, Senlin Chen, Charles C. Huang, David F. Stodden, Ping Xiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The purpose of the study was to quantify the contributions of physical education, exergaming (active video games that also are a type of exercise), recess, lunch break and after-school time segments to children’s daily physical activity and sedentary behaviours. Participants were 138 second and third graders (71 girls) who attended 20-min recess and 75-min lunch time daily, 25-min regular physical education or exergaming-based classes being alternated daily. The after-school period was defined as 3:20–10:00pm. Physical activity was assessed via accelerometry and the dependent variables were children’s time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), light physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Children’s percentages of time spent in MVPA (P <.001; except for the difference between exergaming and lunch break: P =.63), light physical activity (P <.001) and sedentary behaviour (P <.001) differed significantly across the time segments (i.e., physical education/exergaming, recess, lunch break and after-school). Additionally, children accumulated significantly more MVPA (t = 10.22, P <.001) but less light physical activity (t = −3.17, P =.002) and sedentary behaviour (t = −3.91, P <.001) in physical education than in exergaming. Overall, physical education was more effective in generating MVPA than other segments over the school day. The after-school segment holds potential as an avenue for promoting children’s MVPA, as this long period could be better utilised to organise structured physical activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis.


  • Childhood obesity
  • light physical activity
  • moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
  • school-based physical activity programmes


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