Summer day camps (SDC) represent one of the largest settings, outside the academic school year, where children can engage in safe, enjoyable physical activity (PA). Yet, little is known about this setting and how active children are while attending.
System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth was used to categorize PA of boys/girls as Sedentary/Walking/Vigorous across multiple days (8 AM to 6 PM) in 4 large-scale community-based SDCs. Contextual characteristics of type of activity, activity management, equipment, and in/outdoors were collected simultaneously. Mixed-model regression analyses examined associations between PA categories and contextual characteristics.
A total of 4649 scans of 2462 children were made across 27 days in the SDCs. Physical activity opportunities represented 38% of the daily schedule. Overall, 74%–79%, 13%–16%, and 7%–9% of children were observed Sedentary, Walking, or Vigorous during the SDC, and this changed to 62%–67%, 18%–19%, and 15%–18% observed Sedentary, Walking, or Vigorous during PA opportunities. Water-based PA, equipment, and free-play were related to increased PA. Children waiting-in-line for turns, staff instructing, and organized PA were related to increased sedentary.
These findings provide evidence of modifiable characteristics of SDCs associated with PA. Improving staff skills related to facilitating active environments is a viable avenue to increase PA accumulated within SDCs.