The purpose of this study was to assess factors that influence physical activity (PA) levels during break-times in South African primary school children.
The System for Observing Play and Leisure Activities in Youth (SOPLAY) was used to observe PA levels during break-times at low-income schools (4 intervention, 4 control). The intervention was based on action-planning including: school environment, curriculum, and family involvement. Categories of observed activity included Sedentary, Eating, Walking, or Vigorous PA. Contextual factors assessed included teacher supervision, equipment, and crowding. Chi-square tests were used to determine associations between PA levels and contextual factors.
In the 970 observations made, 31% of learners were sedentary, 14% were eating, 29% were walking, and 26% were engaged in vigorous PA. There were no differences in break-time PA between intervention and control groups (NS). With supervision, children were more likely to eat and less likely to do vigorous PA (P = .035). Playground crowding was associated with lower levels of vigorous activity and more sedentary behavior (P = .000).
PA during break-time was adversely affected by over-crowding and lower with supervision. The results suggest that interventions may be targeted at the school policy environment to reduce these barriers to PA.