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Mark Swanson, Nancy E. Schoenberg, Heather Erwin, and Rian E. Davis

Background:

Most children in the United States receive far less physical activity (PA) than is optimal. In rural, under resourced areas of Appalachian Kentucky, physical inactivity rates are significantly higher than national levels. We sought to understand children’s perceptions of PA, with the goal of developing culturally appropriate programming to increase PA.

Methods:

During 11 focus groups, we explored perspectives on PA among 63 Appalachian children, ages 8−17. Sessions were tape recorded, transcribed, content analyzed, and subjected to verification procedures.

Results:

Several perspectives on PA emerged among these rural Appalachian youth, including the clear distinction between PA (viewed as positive) and exercise (viewed as negative) and an emphasis on time and resource factors as barriers to adequate PA. Additional PA determinants expressed in the focus groups are similar to those of other populations. We include children’s recommendations for appealing PA programs.

Conclusions:

Appalachian and other rural residents contend with the loss of rural health advantages (due to declines in farming/other occupational and avocational transitions). At the same time, Appalachian residents have not benefitted from urban PA facilitators (sidewalks, recreational facilities, clubs and organized leisure activities). Addressing low PA levels requires extensive community input and creative programming.

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Brandon L. Alderman, Tami Benham-Deal, Aaron Beighle, Heather E. Erwin, and Ryan L. Olson

Little is known about the exact contribution of physical education (PE) to total daily physical activity (PA) among children and adolescents. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to describe the PA of middle school students during PE and non-PE days and determine if children would compensate for a lack of PE by increasing their PA later in the day. Two hundred seventy nine students (159 boys, 120 girls) wore pedometers (Walk4Life LS252, Plainfield, IL) during 5 school days, with at least two of the days including scheduled PE. The least (~1,575; 31% increase), moderately (~2,650; 20% increase), and most highly active students (~5,950; 34% increase) accumulated significantly more daily step counts on days when they participated in PE. Nearly three times the percent of boys (37%) and more than two times the percent of girls (61%) met the recommended steps/day guidelines on days when PE was offered. Rather than a compensatory effect, the most highly active students were more active on school days with PE, even after accounting for the steps they accrued in PE. The evidence is consistent with other studies that have found that PE contributes meaningfully to daily PA, that youth do not compensate when they are not provided opportunities to be physically active in school-based programs, and some youth are stimulated to be more active when they participate in school-based PA programs.

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Darla M. Castelli, Charles H. Hillman, Sarah M. Buck, and Heather E. Erwin

The relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement has received much attention owing to the increasing prevalence of children who are overweight and unfit, as well as the inescapable pressure on schools to produce students who meet academic standards. This study examined 259 public school students in third and fifth grades and found that field tests of physical fitness were positively related to academic achievement. Specifically, aerobic capacity was positively associated with achievement, whereas BMI was inversely related. Associations were demonstrated in total academic achievement, mathematics achievement, and reading achievement, thus suggesting that aspects of physical fitness may be globally related to academic performance in preadolescents. The findings are discussed with regards to maximizing school performance and the implications for educational policies.