The contributing role of physical education in youth's daily physical activity and sedentary behavior

Senlin Chen, Youngwon Kim, Zan Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Background: School physical education (PE) is considered as an effective channel for youth to accumulate moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and reduce sedentary time. The purpose of this study was to determine the contributing role of PE in daily MVPA and sedentary time among youth. Methods. The study recruited 67 sixth grade children (29 boys; Mean age = 11.75) from two suburban schools at a U.S. Midwest state, 48 of whom contributed ≥10 hours of physical activity (PA) data per day were included for analysis. An objective monitoring tool (i.e., Sensewear armband monitor) was used to capture the participants' MVPA and sedentary time for 7-14 days. Pearson product-moment correlation analysis (r), multi-level regression analyses, and analysis of variance were conducted for data analysis. Results: MVPA and sedentary time in PE showed significant positive associations with daily MVPA and sedentary time, respectively (r = 0.35, p < 0.01; r = 0.55, p < 0.01). Regression analyses revealed that one minute increase in MVPA and sedentary behavior in PE was associated with 2.04 minutes and 5.30 minutes increases in daily MVPA and sedentary behavior, respectively, after controlling for sex and BMI. The participants demonstrated a significantly higher level of MVPA (p =.05) but similar sedentary time (p = 0.61) on PE days than on non-PE days. Boys had significantly more daily MVPA (p <.01) and less sedentary time (p <.01) than girls; while higher BMI was associated with more sedentary time (p <.01). Conclusions: PE displayed a positive contribution to increasing daily MVPA and decreasing daily sedentary time among youth. Active participation in PE classes increases the chance to be more active and less sedentary beyond PE among youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 4 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Iowa State University College of Human Sciences.


  • Childhood obesity
  • Gender differences
  • Health
  • Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity


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