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Policy and Advocacy in Physical Education: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Risto Marttinen and Aaron Beighle

In this paper, we provide an overview of physical education (PE) policy and advocacy research in the United States. We examine the past policy and advocacy work that has been completed in the field and make connections to international policy work. We examine the potential changes the future holds for developing scholarship in the area. We define policy and advocacy and explain how teachers as policy actors are key figures in any policy enacted. The paper also examines the relationship between PE and the public health arena, which completes a lot of PE-focused policy research. The paper concludes with a focus on PE teacher education and the work that higher education must do to help educate future professionals to be advocates for policy change.

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Measuring Children’s Activity Levels: The Association Between Step-Counts and Activity Time

Aaron Beighle and Robert P. Pangrazi

Background:

The primary purpose of this study was to describe the association between activity time and step counts in children.

Methods:

Subjects were 590 students (334 girls, 256 boys) with each gender having a mean age of 9.2 ± 1.8 y. All subjects wore the Walk4Life 2505 pedometer for four consecutive weekdays. This pedometer simultaneously measures both step counts and activity time.

Results:

Boys accumulated significantly more minutes of activity time/day (140.9 ± 39.6 vs. 126.3 ± 38.1), steps/day (13,348 ± 4131 vs. 11,702 ± 3923), and steps per min (93.99 ± 5.8 vs. 91.85 ± 5.8) than girls (P < 0.001) Steps/day was a significant predictor of activity time/day (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions:

Boys accumulate more steps per day and more activity time per day than girls. There is a strong association between steps per day and activity time in children. Daily steps per minute as a measure of free living physical activity in children is explored

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Systematic Review of Recess Interventions to Increase Physical Activity

Melinda J. Ickes, Heather Erwin, and Aaron Beighle

Background:

With the rapid increase in obesity rates among youth, efforts to increase physical activity (PA) have become a priority. School-based strategies for PA promotion must be cost-effective, unobtrusive, and linked to improved academic performance. Efforts to maximize recess PA are advocated because of both health and academic benefits. The purpose of this manuscript was to review recess interventions aimed to improve PA among youth, and make recommendations to develop related best practices.

Methods:

An extensive literature search was conducted to include all primary research articles evaluating any recess intervention with PA as an outcome.

Results:

The included 13 interventions represented both settings within the U.S and internationally, among preschools and elementary/primary schools. A variety of strategies were used within the design and implementation of each of the interventions including: added equipment/materials, markings, zones, teacher involvement, active video games, activity of the week, and activity cards. Of the included studies, 95% demonstrated positive outcomes as a result of the recess intervention.

Conclusions:

A number of simple, low-cost strategies can be implemented to maximize the amount of recess time students are allotted. Long-term follow-up studies are warranted for each of the recess strategies identified to be effective.

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Systematic Observation of Physical Activity in Afterschool Programs: Preliminary Findings From Movin’ Afterschool Intervention

Michael William Beets, Jennifer Huberty, and Aaron Beighle

Background:

National and state organizations have called upon afterschool programs (3–6 PM, ASP) to promote physical activity (PA). Few strategies exist that ASPs can use to increase the PA of children enrolled. This study evaluated a policy-level intervention (Movin’ Afterschool, MAS) designed to increase PA through staff implemented policy-level changes and ongoing technical support.

Methods:

Twelve preexisting community-based ASPs serving 580 children (5–12 yrs, 57% girls) were invited to take part in MAS. Evaluation of children’s PA, staff behaviors (engaged or promote PA, other ASP tasks, general supervising), and environmental features (equipment, organized PA) at baseline (Fall 2010) and postassessment (Spring 2011) were collected using SOPLAY (System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth) for boys and girls, separately. Random effects models evaluated changes in PA categories (sedentary, walking, vigorous).

Results:

The percentage of boys and girls sedentary decreased by 11.8% and 11.4%, respectively. Girls walking increased by 6.9% while boys vigorous PA increased by 6.5%. Greater increases in vigorous activity were observed as postassessment in organized activities for boys and during indoor activities for girls.

Conclusions:

Findings indicate a policy-level approach targeting staff training and ongoing technical support can produce notable increases in PA within the ASP setting.

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Determination of Step Rate Thresholds Corresponding to Physical Activity Intensity Classifications in Adults

Mark Abel, James Hannon, David Mullineaux, and Aaron Beighle

Background:

Current recommendations call for adults to be physically active at moderate and/or vigorous intensities. Given the popularity of walking and running, the use of step rates may provide a practical and inexpensive means to evaluate ambulatory intensity. Thus, the purpose of this study was to identify step rate thresholds that correspond to various intensity classifications.

Methods:

Oxygen consumption was measured at rest and during 10 minute treadmill walking and running trials at 6 standardized speeds (54, 80, 107, 134, 161, and 188 m·min-1) in 9 men and 10 women (28.8 ± 6.8 yrs). Two observers counted the participants’ steps at each treadmill speed. Linear and nonlinear regression analyses were used to develop prediction equations to ascertain step rate thresholds at various intensities.

Results:

Nonlinear regression analysis of the metabolic cost versus step rates across all treadmill speeds yielded the highest R 2 values for men (R 2 = .91) and women (R 2 = .79). For men, the nonlinear analysis yielded 94 and 125 step·min-1 for moderate and vigorous intensities, respectively. For women, 99 and 135 step·min-1 corresponded with moderate and vigorous intensities, respectively.

Conclusions:

Promoting a step rate of 100 step·min-1 may serve as a practical public health recommendation to exercise at moderate intensity.

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Environmental Modifications to Increase Physical Activity During Recess: Preliminary Findings from Ready for Recess

Jennifer L. Huberty, Michael W. Beets, Aaron Beighle, and Greg Welk

Background:

The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of Ready for Recess: an elementary school recess intervention targeting staff training (ST) and providing recreational equipment (EQ).

Methods:

Ready for Recess had 4 intervention schools: 1) EQ+ST, 2) EQ, 3) ST, and 4) control. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was assessed with accelerometers at the four schools in 257 3rd- to 6th-grade children. Random intercept models for overweight/obese (OWOB) and healthy weight (HW) for boys and girls separately, examined change in percentage of time spent in MVPA during recess across EQ+ST, EQ, and ST compared with the control from baseline to postintervention.

Results:

HW boys receiving EQ+ST increased MVPA by 19.4%, OWOB boys receiving ST increased MVPA by 4.5%, OWOB girls receiving EQ-ST increased MVPA by 6.0%, while HW girls receiving EQ decreased MVPA by 13.6% in comparison with the control.

Conclusions:

Ready for Recess represents a possible means to increase MVPA in OWOB girls/boys, populations least likely to meet MVPA recommendations. However, the effect of the intervention was not uniform across all subgroups.

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Pedometer-Determined Step-Count Guidelines for Afterschool Programs

Michael W. Beets, Aaron Beighle, Matteo Bottai, Laura Rooney, and Fallon Tilley

Background:

Policies to require afterschool programs (ASPs, 3 PM to 6 PM) to provide children a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) exist. With few low-cost, easy-to-use measures of MVPA available to the general public, ASP providers are limited in their ability to track progress toward achieving this policy-goal. Pedometers may fill this gap, yet there are no step-count guidelines for ASPs linked to 30 minutes of MVPA.

Methods:

Steps and accelerometer estimates of MVPA were collected concurrently over multiple days on 245 children (8.2 years, 48% boys, BMI-percentile 68.2) attending 3 community-based ASPs. Random intercept logit models and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses were used to identify a threshold of steps that corresponded with attaining 30 minutes of MVPA.

Results:

Children accumulated an average of 2876 steps (standard error [SE] 79) and 16.1 minutes (SE0.5) of MVPA over 111 minutes (SE1.3) during the ASP. A threshold of 4600 steps provided high specificity (0.967) and adequate sensitivity (0.646) for discriminating children who achieved the 30 minutes of MVPA; 93% of the children were correctly classified. The total area under the curve was 0.919. Children accumulating 4600 steps were 25times more likely to accumulate 30 minutes of MVPA.

Conclusions:

This step threshold will provide ASP leaders with an objective, low-cost, easy-to-use tool to monitor progress toward policy-related goals.

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Student Perceived Motivational Climate, Enjoyment, and Physical Activity in Middle School Physical Education

Christine E. Johnson, Heather E. Erwin, Lindsay Kipp, and Aaron Beighle

We used achievement goal theory to examine students’ physical activity (PA) motivation and physical education (PE) enjoyment. Purposes included: 1) determine whether schools with different pedagogical approaches varied in student perceptions of mastery and performance climate dimensions, enjoyment, and PA; 2) examine gender and grade differences in enjoyment and PA; and 3) determine if dimensions of motivational climate predicted enjoyment and PA levels in PE, controlling for gender and grade. Youth (n = 290, 150 girls) from three southeast United States middle schools wore a pedometer and completed a motivational climate and enjoyment questionnaire. Boys were more active and enjoyed PE more than girls, and 7th/8th grade students were more active than 6th grade students. Enjoyment was positively predicted by teacher’s emphasis on two mastery climate dimensions, controlling for gender. PE activity time was predicted by two performance climate dimensions, controlling for gender and grade. Implications for practice are discussed.

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Changes in Psychosocial Perspectives Among Physical Activity Leaders: Teacher Efficacy, Work Engagement, and Affective Commitment

Ann Pulling Kuhn, Russell L. Carson, Aaron Beighle, and Darla M. Castelli

Purpose: This study examined changes in physical education teachers’ psychosocial perspectives after participating in a yearlong professional development about Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programming. Method: Twenty-three intervention teachers attended a workshop in Year 1 and received one academic year of technical assistance and mentorship, and 30 control teachers only attended a workshop in Year 2. Both groups completed pre- and post-self-reported measures on teacher efficacy, work engagement, and affective commitment. Results: At posttest, intervention teachers reported significantly higher levels of affective commitment, and a significant positive relationship was revealed between affective commitment and the degree to which before-school physical activity was implemented. More experienced teachers (>20 years) reported significantly higher levels of the work engagement subscale of vigor at posttest. Discussion/Conclusion: Participating in a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program professional development may positively influence teachers’ job commitment levels and invigorate more experienced teachers, which may relate to Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program implementation.

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Physical Education’s Contribution to Daily Physical Activity Among Middle School Youth

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.