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.
Alderman is with the Dept. of Exercise Science and Sports Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. Benham-Deal is with the Dept. of Kinesiology and Health, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY. Beighle and Erwin are with the Dept. of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY. Olson is with the Dept. of Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.