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.
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.
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).
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.