Physical activity patterns of inner-city elementary schoolchildren

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Mar;45(3):470-4. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318275e40b.


Purpose: This study aimed to objectively measure the physical activity (PA) characteristics of a racially and ethnically diverse sample of inner-city elementary schoolchildren and to examine the influence of sex, race/ethnicity, grade level, and weight status on PA.

Methods: A total of 470 students in grades 4-6 from six inner-city schools in Philadelphia wore an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer (Actigraph, Pensacola, FL) for up to 7 d. The resultant data were uploaded to a customized Visual Basic EXCEL macro to determine the time spent in sedentary (SED), light-intensity PA (LPA), and moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA (MVPA).

Results: On average, students accumulated 48 min of MVPA daily. Expressed as a percentage of monitoring time, students were sedentary for 63% of the time, in LPA 31% of the time, and in MVPA 6% of the time. Across all race/ethnicity and grade level groups, boys exhibited significantly higher levels of MVPA than girls did; fifth-grade boys exhibited significantly lower MVPA levels than fourth- and sixth-grade boys did, and sixth-grade girls exhibited significantly lower MVPA levels than fourth- and fifth-grade girls did. Hispanic children exhibited lower levels of MVPA than children from other racial/ethnic groups did, and overweight and obese children exhibited significantly lower MVPA levels than children in the healthy weight range did. Across the entire sample, only 24.3% met the current public health guidelines for PA. Physical inactivity was significantly greater among females, Hispanics, and overweight and obese students.

Conclusions: Fewer than one in four inner-city schoolchildren accumulated the recommended 60 min of MVPA daily. These findings highlight the need for effective and sustainable programs to promote PA in inner-city youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Weight
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*