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Variables associated with children's physical activity levels during recess: the A-CLASS project

Nicola D Ridgers14*, Stuart J Fairclough24 and Gareth Stratton34

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia

2 Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure, Liverpool John Moores University, I.M. Marsh Campus, Barkhill Road, Liverpool, L17 6BD, UK

3 Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Tom Reilly Building, Byrom Street, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK

4 Research in to Exercise, Activity and Children's Health (REACH) Group, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2010, 7:74  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-7-74

Published: 12 October 2010



School recess provides a daily opportunity for children to engage in physically active behaviours. However, few studies have investigated what factors may influence children's physical activity levels in this context. Such information may be important in the development and implementation of recess interventions. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between a range of recess variables and children's sedentary, moderate and vigorous physical activity in this context.


One hundred and twenty-eight children (39% boys) aged 9-10 years old from 8 elementary schools had their physical activity levels observed during school recess using the System for Observing Children's Activity and Relationships during Play (SOCARP). Playground variables data were also collected at this time. Multilevel prediction models identified variables that were significantly associated with children's sedentary, moderate and vigorous physical activity during recess.


Girls engaged in 13.8% more sedentary activity and 8.2% less vigorous activity than boys during recess. Children with no equipment provision during recess engaged in more sedentary activity and less moderate activity than children provided with equipment. In addition, as play space per child increased, sedentary activity decreased and vigorous activity increased. Temperature was a significant negatively associated with vigorous activity.


Modifiable and unmodifiable factors were associated with children's sedentary, moderate and vigorous physical activity during recess. Providing portable equipment and specifying areas for activities that dominate the elementary school playground during recess may be two approaches to increase recess physical activity levels, though further research is needed to evaluate the short and long-term impact of such strategies.