Objective: To examine the prevalence and socio-demographic distribution of physical activity among New South Wales school students in Years 8 and 10.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 2,026 randomly selected NSW high school students in 1997. The survey participants self-reported their physical activity participation during a normal week in summer and winter school terms.
Results: During summer school terms, 80.9% and 85.9% of Year 8 and Year 10 boys, respectively, and 80.8% and 77.7% of Year 8 and Year 10 girls, respectively, were adequately active. During winter school terms, 75.6% and 84.0% of Year 8 and Year 10 boys, respectively, and 69.4% and 66.0% of Year 8 and Year 10 girls, respectively, were adequately active. The associations between socio-economic status, urban/rural place of residence and physical activity participation were neither strong nor consistent. There were complex relationships between physical activity participation and cultural background among boys, and large differences between different cultural groups of girls and large declines in participation from Year 8 to Year 10 among girls.
Conclusions: Although the majority of boys and girls are adequately active, it is clear that a smaller proportion of girls than boys are vigorously active, particularly during winter. There were no clear differences across tertiles of SES or place of residence, but there were significant differences between girls from different cultural backgrounds.
Implications: Efforts to increase the proportion of young people who are vigorously active should emphasise the needs and interests of girls, particularly those from Middle-Eastem and Asian cultural backgrounds.