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Susanne James-Burdumy, Nicholas Beyler, Kelley Borradaile, Martha Bleeker, Alyssa Maccarone and Jane Fortson

Background:

The Playworks program places coaches in low-income urban schools to engage students in physical activity during recess. The purpose of this study was to estimate the impact of Playworks on students’ physical activity separately for Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and non-Hispanic white students.

Methods:

Twenty-seven schools from 6 cities were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Accelerometers were used to measure the intensity of students’ physical activity, the number of steps taken, and the percentage of time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during recess. The impact of Playworks was estimated by comparing average physical activity outcomes in treatment and control groups.

Results:

Compared with non-Hispanic black students in control schools, non-Hispanic black students in Playworks schools recorded 338 more intensity counts per minute, 4.9 more steps per minute, and 6.3 percentage points more time in MVPA during recess. Playworks also had an impact on the number of steps per minute during recess for Hispanic students but no significant impact on the physical activity of non-Hispanic white students.

Conclusions:

The impact of Playworks was larger among minority students than among non-Hispanic white students. One possible explanation is that minority students in non-Playworks schools typically engaged in less physical activity, suggesting that there is more room for improvement.