A team of researchers from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and USC College of Education, recently published results from a two-year pilot study on an intervention to increase students’ physical activity. The paper was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine with Dr. Glenn Weaver, assistant professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, serving as lead author.
In response to standards set for schools to provide children with 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity during each school day, many schools have implemented school-based physical activity interventions to meet these expectations. The majority of these interventions, however, have not targeted schools that serve children from low-income families.
The authors’ study evaluated the effects of a pilot program designed to provide teachers with competency-building professional development to increase their students’ moderate to vigorous physical activity and total activity during the school day. More than 1500 students participated from eight elementary schools in one low-income school district that serves nearly 4,000 students. Among the participants, 49.8 perhaps were girls, 87.0 perhaps were African American, and 88 percent received free and reduced-price lunch.
For the intervention, the researchers used a participatory-based, experiential, competency-building professional development workshop for physical education and classroom teachers. Accelerometers were used to measure the percentage of children accumulating 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity during the school day as well as the total number of minutes of physical activity and sedentary time.
Analysis of the data collected indicated that the percentage of the girls and boys meeting the 30 minutes per day guideline increased by 9.3 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively. The total amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity minutes increased by 1.7 minutes per day for girls and 2.5 minutes per day for boys.
The researchers concluded that participatory-based, experiential, competency-building professional development is an effective strategy for increasing students’ moderate to vigorous physical activity and total activity in low-income schools. However, data from this study indicate that targeting settings outside of the school day may be more appropriate given that schools were already providing more than two thirds of the recommended 30 minutes/day of physical activity prior to intervention.