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Heart Rate and Perceived Exertion in Healthy Weight and Obese Children During a Self-Selected Physical Activity Program

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Compared with structured/organized activities, unstructured, self-selected physical activity (PA) may be more appealing for children in particular obese (OB) children. We examined whether both healthy-weight (HW) and OB children would engage in moderate to vigorous intensity PA during an unstructured PA program and compared heart rate (HR) and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) between the children.


Twenty-one children [9 OB (≥95th BMI percentile, 12 HW (5th – <85th), 8.6 ± 0.8 years; 9 males, 12 females] participated in before-school (7:30 AM to 8:15 AM) PA for 18 weeks, 3 consecutive days/week. Each child wore a Polar E600 HR monitor and was provided a vigorous, age-targeted heart rate (THR) of 70%.


Mean HR ≥ vigorous THR for all children in 65.3% of the sessions and exceeded moderate intensity in 100%. Over the 18-weeks, no significant difference was observed in the overall mean HR between the HW (171.4 ± 12.0) and OB (169.3 ± 13.0), however the OB reported significantly lower RPEs than the HW (16.9 ± 2.6 vs. 17.6 ± 1.5, respectively; P < .05).


Both the HW and OB children consistently sustained PA of moderate and vigorous intensity. The current study provides insight regarding the physiological capabilities and perceptual responses of HW and OB children participating in PA programs.

Tompkins (Connie.Tompkins@uvm.edu), Lavoie, and Brock are with the Dept of Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT. Flanagan is with the Post-Baccalaureate program, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT.