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Genevieve F. Dunton, Yue Liao, Stephen Intille, Jennifer Wolch, and Mary Ann Pentz

Background:

This study used real-time electronic surveys delivered through mobile phones, known as Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), to determine whether level and experience of leisure-time physical activity differ across children’s physical and social contexts.

Methods:

Children (N = 121; ages 9 to 13 years; 52% male, 32% Hispanic/Latino) participated in 4 days (Fri.–Mon.) of EMA during nonschool time. Electronic surveys (20 total) assessed primary activity (eg, active play/sports/exercise), physical location (eg, home, outdoors), social context (eg, friends, alone), current mood (positive and negative affect), and enjoyment. Responses were time-matched to the number of steps and minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA; measured by accelerometer) in the 30 minutes before each survey.

Results:

Mean steps and MVPA were greater outdoors than at home or at someone else’s house (all P < .05). Steps were greater with multiple categories of company (eg, friends and family together) than with family members only or alone (all P < .05). Enjoyment was greater outdoors than at home or someone else’s house (all P < .05). Negative affect was greater when alone and with family only than friends only (all P < .05).

Conclusion:

Results describing the value of outdoor and social settings could inform context-specific interventions in this age group.