Cover: The Role of School Physical Activity Programs in Child Body Mass Trajectory

The Role of School Physical Activity Programs in Child Body Mass Trajectory

Published In: Journal of Physical Activity & Health, v. 8, no. 2, Feb. 2011, p. 174-181

Posted on Feb 1, 2011

by Meenakshi Maria Fernandes, Roland Sturm

BACKGROUND: Physical activity at school can support obesity prevention among youth. This paper assesses the role of existing school physical activity programs for a national cohort from first grade to fifth grade. METHODS: We analyzed a cohort from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey-Kindergarten Cohort which included 8246 children in 970 schools across the country. Growth curve models estimate the effect of physical education (PE) and recess on individual child body mass trajectories controlling for child and school characteristics. Hierarchical models allow for unobserved school and child effects. RESULTS: Among first graders, 7.0% met the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommended time for PE and 70.7% met the recommended time for recess in the previous week. Boys experienced a greater increase in body mass than girls. Meeting the NASPE recommended time for recess was associated with a 0.74 unit decrease in BMI (body mass index) percentile for children overall. Meeting the NASPE recommendation for physical education was associated with 1.56 unit decrease in BMI percentile among boys but not girls. CONCLUSIONS: We find evidence that meeting the national recommendations for PE and recess is effective in mitigating body mass increase among children.

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.