How active are rural children in Australian physical education?

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Publication details

Barnett, LM, van Beurden, E, Zask, A, Brooks, LO & Dietrich, UC 2002, 'How active are rural children in Australian physical education?', Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 253-265.

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Physical education lessons offer a venue for children to accrue valuable and health-conferring time being physically active. The first Australian direct observational data are presented on activity of year 3 and 4 children during physical education. Analysis accounts for the nested nature of the data through multi level logistic regression using 13,080 records within 231 lessons within 18 randomly selected schools. Activity was analysed in relation to lesson context (focus of lesson), child gender, school year of child, teacher gender, lesson duration and start time. Children spent 36.7% of a lesson in moderate to vigorous and 12.9% in vigorous activity. Most of the lesson was spent in the context of management/instruction (37.4%), followed by games (25.0%), skill (21.4%), and fitness (14.7%). The highest level of moderate to vigorous activity was observed in the fitness lesson context (61.9%), followed by skill (46.4%), games (42.6%) and management/instruction (17.1%). Moderate to vigorous activity was significantly higher for boys than girls. There was no significant difference in moderate to vigorous activity in lessons led by male or female teachers. However vigorous activity was significantly higher for female led lessons. Children participated in less physical activity during physical education lessons timetabled in the afternoon, compared to physical education lessons time-tabled in the morning. Physical activity levels were not related to lesson duration. Physical education lessons can potentially be more active. However improvement rests on school capacity and may require a health promoting schools approach to implement curricular policy.

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