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Physical Activity Practices in Elementary Schools and Associations with Physical Education Staffing and Training

Turner L, Johnson TG, Slater SJ, and Chaloupka FJ. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 85(4):488-501, 2014.

Purpose: Authorities recommend that schools provide a variety of opportunities for students to obtain physical activity (PA) before, during, and after school. This study assessed the prevalence of several school PA practices-including measures of quantity and quality of physical education (PE)-in elementary schools and examined the associations of PA practices with school resources (PE staffing, training, and facilities).

Method: Surveys were obtained from respondents in nationally representative samples of elementary schools from 2009-2010 to 2011-2012 (1,831 schools).

Results: Few schools (20.8%) provided students with PE class every day, but most (76.3%) had an appropriate PE student-to-teacher ratio ( ≤ 25:1). Many schools (74.0%) offered 20 min of recess daily, but fewer than half offered organized opportunities for PA before or after school (e.g., sports). After controlling for demographics and school size, having a full-time PE teacher and requiring PE teachers to obtain PE-related continuing education (CE) were associated with PE practices such as offering ≥ 150 min of PE per week (for 3rd-grade students) and testing PE knowledge, skills, and fitness. Required CE was also associated with a higher likelihood of offering PA during the school day (i.e., activity breaks and PA outside of PE class) and before or after the school day (i.e., afterschool PA programs).

Conclusion: Few schools offer a broad array of PA programming. However, PE staffing and CE are positively associated with many PA practices including those outside of PE, possibly indicating that PE staff serve a crucial role in promoting a whole-school PA-supportive environment.

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