Background: Environmental settings seem to influence the activity patterns of children in neighbourhoods and schoolyards, the latter being an important arena to promote physical activity (PA) in school children. New technology has made it possible to describe free-living PA in interaction with the environment.
Aims of study: This study focused on how schoolyard environments influenced the activity patterns and intensity levels in 14-year-old children and whether PA levels in adolescents complied with official recommendations. Another objective was to introduce methodology of using a mobile global positioning system (GPS) device with synchronous heart rate (HR) recordings as a proxy for PA level and a geographical information system (GIS) for spatial analyses.
Methods: The sample constituted of 81 children (aged 14 years) from two schools. Movement patterns and activity levels were recorded during lunch break applying a GPS Garmin Forerunner 305 with combined HR monitoring and analysed in a GIS by an overlaid grid and kriging interpolation.
Results: Spatial data from GPS recordings showed particular movement patterns in the schoolyards. Low activity levels (mean HR < 120 bpm) dominated in both schools with no gender differences. Activities located to a handball goal area showed the highest monitored HR (>160 bpm) with higher intensity in girls than in boys.
Conclusions: Movement patterns and PA generated in GIS for visualisation and analysis enabled direct and realistic description of utilising of schoolyard facilities and activity levels. Linking GPS data and PA levels to spatial structures made it possible to visualise the environmental interaction with PA and which environments promoted low or high PA.