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Thomas L. McKenzie

Schools are salient locations for promoting and providing physical activity, but they fail to meet the public health recommendation of providing at least half the 60 min of physical activity that children need daily. To help solve this school deficit, the author proposes that the “biggest bang” would result from developing and implementing school physical activity policies. However, this remains a theory because school policy studies are in their infancy and rarely include direct measures of physical activity. Physical activity does not just happen generally in schools but occurs within specific contexts such as physical education and leisure-time programs. Alternative methods to self-reports are needed to study physical activity policies, and direct observation tools are available to assess physical activity within specific contexts. Private and charter schools are understudied, and they should be included in future investigations.

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David Kahan and Thomas L. McKenzie

Background:

Physical education (PE) is mandated in most states, but few studies of PE in private schools exist.

Methods:

We assessed selected PE policies and practices in private secondary schools (grades 6 to 12) in California using a 15-item questionnaire related to school characteristics and their PE programs.

Results:

Responding schools (n = 450; response rate, 33.8%) were from 37 counties. Most were coeducational (91.3%) and had a religious affiliation (83%). Secular schools had more PE lessons, weekly PE min, and smaller class sizes. Most schools met guidelines for class size, but few met national recommendations for weekly PE minutes (13.7%), not permitting substitutions for PE (35.6%), and programs being taught entirely by PE specialists (29.3%).

Conclusions:

Private schools, which serve about 5 million US children and adolescents, may be falling short in providing quality PE. School stakeholders should encourage adoption and implementation of policies and practices that abide by professional guidelines and state statutes.

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Nicola D. Ridgers, Gareth Stratton and Thomas L. McKenzie

Background:

Children frequently engage in diverse activities that are broadly defined as play, but little research has documented children’s activity levels during play and how they are influenced by social contexts. Assessing potentially modifiable conditions that influence play behavior is needed to design optimal physical activity interventions.

Methods:

System for Observing Children’s Activity and Relationships during Play (SOCARP) was developed to simultaneously assess children’s physical activity, social group sizes, activity type, and social behavior during play. One hundred and fourteen children (48 boys, 66 girls; 42% overweight) from 8 elementary schools were observed during recess over 24 days, with 12 days videotaped for reliability purposes. Ninety-nine children wore a uni-axial accelerometer during their observation period.

Results:

Estimated energy expenditure rates from SOCARP observations and mean accelerometer counts were significantly correlated (r = .67; P < .01), and interobserver reliabilities (ie, percentage agreement) for activity level (89%), group size (88%), activity type (90%) and interactions (88%) met acceptable criteria. Both physical activity and social interactions were influenced by group size, activity type, and child gender and body weight status.

Conclusions:

SOCARP is a valid and reliable observation system for assessing physical activity and play behavior in a recess context.

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Nicole J. Smith, Monica A.F. Lounsbery and Thomas L. McKenzie

Background:

Physical education (PE) is recommended as a source for physical activity (PA) and learning generalizable PA skills. Few studies have objectively examined high school PE, specifically its delivery, including PA, lesson contexts, and class gender composition.

Methods:

We used the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT) to assess PA during 6 lesson contexts in 47 boys-only, 54 girls-only, and 63 coed lessons from 7 high schools. MANOVA assessed differences based on class gender composition.

Results:

Actual lesson length was 27.7 min, only 65% of the scheduled length of class periods. Students engaged in moderate-vigorous PA (MVPA) 54% of the time, with boys being more active than girls. Game play was the most dominant context (47%), and little time was allocated to knowledge and skill development. Class size, lesson length, PA, and lesson contexts all differed by class gender composition (P < .001).

Conclusions:

Many differences in the conduct of high school PE are related to class gender composition. Boys accumulated more MVPA than girls. When held, PE lessons contributed about 25% of recommended daily PA minutes; improvements could be made by increasing allocations to fitness and skill practice and reducing transition and management time. Teacher professional development is warranted.

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Jennifer L. Huberty, Michael William Beets, Aaron Beighle and Thomas L. Mckenzie

Background:

Children’s achievement of recommendations for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in afterschool programs (ASP) is complex. It is unclear what elements of the ASP environment influence children’s physical activity (PA). The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship of staff behaviors and ASP features (eg, organized activity, recreational equipment) to MVPA participation in youth attending ASPs.

Methods:

Data were collected in 12 ASPs in the Midwest. Staff behavior and child PA was measured using the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth. The percentage of children’s MVPA was examined in relation to staff behaviors and ASP features.

Results:

Increases in MVPA were observed when staff were directly engaged in PA, verbally promoted MVPA, and when PA was organized and equipment was present. When 3 or more of these characteristics were present, the proportion of children engaged in MVPA increased by 25%−30%. Conversely, MVPA levels decreased when these characteristics were absent and when staff were attending to other ASP duties or were supervising.

Conclusion:

This study provides evidence about the specific staff behaviors that may influence higher proportions of youth being active during ASP and implies specific skills that need to be incorporated into ASP staff training.

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Thomas L. McKenzie, Deborah A. Cohen, Amber Sehgal, Stephanie Williamson and Daniela Golinelli

Background:

New tools are needed to examine physical activity and the contexts in which it occurs. Community parks contribute to physical activity, but measuring activity and associated variables in them is challenging because area contexts change and the numbers and characteristics of users are highly variable.

Methods:

We developed SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities) and tested its use by observing 16,244 individuals in 165 park areas. Reliabilities included 472 simultaneous measures by independent observers.

Results:

Correlations between observers on number of area participants was 0.99 for female and male park users. Reliabilities (i.e., percent agreement) for age (89%, females; 85%, males), race/ethnic (80%, females; 82%, males), and activity level (80%, females; 88%, males) groupings met acceptable criteria. Reliabilities for area contexts (i.e., usable, accessible, supervised, organized, equipped) exceeded 94%.

Conclusions:

SOPARC is a reliable and feasible instrument for assessing physical activity and associated contextual data in community settings.

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Cindy H.P. Sit, Jessica W.K. Lam and Thomas L. McKenzie

Background:

Interactive electronic games have recently been popularized and are believed to help promote children’s physical activity (PA). The purpose of the study was to examine preferences and PA levels during interactive and online electronic games among overweight and nonoverweight boys and girls.

Methods:

Using a modification of the SOFIT, we systematically observed 70 Hong Kong Chinese children (35 boys, 35 girls; 50 nonoverweight, 20 overweight), age 9 to 12 years, during 2 60-minute recreation sessions and recorded their game mode choices and PA levels. During Session One children could play either an interactive or an online electronic bowling game and during Session Two they could play an interactive or an online electronic running game.

Results:

Children chose to play the games during 94% of session time and split this time between interactive (52%) and online (48%) versions. They engaged in significantly more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during interactive games than their online electronic versions (70% vs. 2% of game time). Boys and nonoverweight children expended relatively more energy during the interactive games than girls and overweight children, respectively.

Conclusions:

New-generation interactive games can facilitate physical activity in children, and given the opportunity children may select them over sedentary versions.

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Deborah Cohen, Molly Scott, Frank Zhen Wang, Thomas L. McKenzie and Dwayne Porter

Building design and grounds might contribute to physical activity, and youth spend much of their daylight hours at school. We examined the associations among school building footprints, the size of school grounds, and in-school physical activity of 1566 sixth-grade girls from medium to large middle schools enrolled in the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls (TAAG). The school building footprint and the number of active outdoor amenities were associated with physical activity among adolescent girls. On average, the school footprint size accounted for 4% of all light physical activity and 16% of all MET-weight moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MW-MVPA) during school hours. Active outdoor amenities accounted for 29% of all MW-MVPA during school. School design appears to be associated with physical activity, but it is likely that programming (eg, physical education, intramurals, club sports), social factors, and school siting are more important determinants of total physical activity.

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Monica A.F. Lounsbery, Thomas L. McKenzie, Stewart Trost and Nicole J. Smith

Background:

Evidence-based physical education (EBPE) programs have increased physical activity (PA) by as much as 18%, yet widespread adoption has not occurred. Understanding school facilitators and barriers to PE should prove useful to EBPE dissemination efforts.

Methods:

Pairs of principals and PE teachers from 154 schools (75 Adopters and 79 Non-Adopters) from 34 states completed questionnaires. Differences between Adopter and Non-Adopter schools were tested using t tests or Wilcoxon Signed Rank Tests and chi-square analyses.

Results:

Principals and teachers reported distinct PE curriculum adoption decision making roles, but few viewed themselves as very involved in program evaluation. Teachers in Adopter schools were more satisfied with PE program outcomes and had greater involvement in teacher evaluation and program decision making. Compared with teachers, principals were generally more satisfied with their school’s PE program outcomes and did not share the same perceptions of PE barriers. However, principals also demonstrated a general lack of PE program familiarity.

Conclusions:

To facilitate EBPE adoption, dissemination efforts should target both principals and PE teachers. Increasing principal’s knowledge may be instrumental in addressing some teacher perceptions of barriers to PE. Strategic advocacy efforts, including targeting policies that require PE program evaluation, are needed.

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Deborah A. Cohen, Claude Setodji, Kelly R. Evenson, Phillip Ward, Sandra Lapham, Amy Hillier and Thomas L. McKenzie

Background:

The Systematic Observation of Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) was designed to estimate the number and characteristics of people using neighborhood parks by assessing them 4 times/day, 7 days/week. We tested whether this schedule was adequate and determined the minimum number of observations necessary to provide a robust estimate of park user characteristics and their physical activity levels.

Methods:

We conducted observations every hour for 14 hours per day during 1 summer and 1 autumn week in 10 urban neighborhood parks: 2 each in Los Angeles, CA; Albuquerque, NM; Columbus, OH; Durham, NC; and Philadelphia, PA. We counted park users by gender, age group, apparent race/ethnicity, and activity level. We used a standardized Cronbach’s alpha and intraclass correlation coefficients to test the reliability of using fewer observations.

Results:

We observed 76,632 individuals, an average of 547/park/day (range 155−786). Interobserver reliability ranged from 0.80 to 0.99. Obtaining a robust estimate of park user characteristics and their physical activity required a schedule of 4 days/week, 4 times/day.

Conclusion:

An abbreviated schedule of SOPARC was sufficient for estimating park use, park user characteristics, and physical activity. Applying these observation methods can augment physical activity surveillance.