Policies and opportunities for physical activity in middle school environments

Deborah R. Young, Gwen M. Felton, Mira Grieser, John P. Elder, Carolyn Johnson, Jung Sun Lee, Martha Y. Kubik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: This study examined physical activity opportunities and barriers at 36 geographically diverse middle schools participating in the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls. Methods: Principals, physical education and health education department heads, and program leaders were interviewed to assess policies and instructional practices that support physical activity. Results: Schools provided approximately 110 hours per year in physical education instruction. Approximately 20% of students walked or bicycled to school. Eighty-three percent of schools offered interscholastic sports and 69% offered intramural sports. Most schools offered programs for girls, but on average, only 24 girls (∼5%) in the schools attended any programs. Only 25% of schools allowed after school free play. An overall score created to assess school environmental support for physical activity indicated that, on average, schools met 6.7 items of 10 items. Free/reduced lunch program participation versus not (p =.04), perceived priority of physical education instruction over coaching (p =.02), and safety for walking/bicycling to school (p =.02) predicted environmental support score. Conclusions: Schools have policies and practices that support physical activity, although unfavorable practices exist. Schools must work with community partners and officials to provide environments that optimally support physical activity, especially schools that serve low-income students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of School Health
Volume77
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Middle schools
  • Physical activity
  • Socioeconomic status

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