Understanding Patterns of Young Children’s Physical Activity After School—It’s all About Context: A Cross-Sectional Study

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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To promote healthy lifestyles, we need to understand more about the patterns of children’s activities after school.


Twenty 5- to 7-year-old children and their parents participated in this study. Parents used ‘real-time’ diaries to report children’s activities and contextual information at 3 randomly selected times per day, over 4 week days. Reporting was repeated after 13 weeks. Simultaneously children wore Actical accelerometers.


Approximately 300 simultaneous accelerometer measurements and diary entries were compared. Mean physical activity levels were highest when children engaged in activities generally considered as “active” and lowest for doing “nothing.” However, the range within activities was very large; some children who reported TV/screen time accumulated high accelerometry counts and conversely, some children were practically sedentary during organized sports. Children spent most (78%) of their after school time indoors, but the children were significantly more active outdoors than indoors [t(74.8) = 5.0, P < .001].


Accelerometer data in conjunction with real-time diaries provide a more complete understanding of the value of outdoor play in increasing movement opportunities for children’s after school activities.

Engelen (lina.engelen@sydney.edu.au), Bundy, and Lau are with the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Lidcombe, Australia. Engelen is also with the Faculty of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Naughton is with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. Wyver is with the Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Bauman is with the Faculty of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Baur is with the Faculty of Paediatrics & Child Health, University of Sydney, Australia.