Effects of Four-Day School Weeks on Physical Education Exposure and Childhood Obesity

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Use of 4-day school weeks (FDSWs) as a cost-saving strategy has increased substantially as many US school districts face funding declines. However, the impacts of FDSWs on physical activity exposure and related outcomes are unknown. This study examined physical education (PE) exposure and childhood obesity prevalence in 4- versus 5-day Oregon schools; the authors hypothesized lower PE exposure and higher obesity in FDSW schools, given reduced school environment exposure. Methods: The authors utilized existing data from Oregon to compare 4- versus 5-day models: t tests compared mean school-level factors (PE exposure, time in school, enrollment, and demographics) and complex samples weighted t tests compared mean child-level obesity data for a state representative sample of first to third graders (N = 4625). Results: Enrollment, time in school, and student–teacher ratio were significantly lower in FDSW schools. FDSW schools provided significantly more PE, both in minutes (120 vs 101 min/wk in 4- vs 5-d schools, P < .01) and relative to total time in school (6.9% vs 5.0%, P < .0001). Obesity prevalence did not differ significantly between school models. Conclusion: Greater PE exposure in FDSW schools was observed, and it remains unknown whether differences in PE exposure contributed to obesity prevalence in this sample of students. Efforts to better understand how FDSWs impact physical activity, obesity risk, and related factors are needed.

Tomayko is with the Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA. Gunter and Schuna are with the Kinesiology Program, School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA. Thompson is with the Economics Program, School of Public Policy, College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.

Tomayko (emilytomayko@montana.edu) is corresponding author.
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