Open Access Research

The impact of rainfall and school break time policies on physical activity in 9-10 year old British children: a repeated measures study

Flo Harrison1*, Andrew P Jones1, Graham Bentham1, Esther MF van Sluijs2, Aedín Cassidy3 and Simon J Griffin2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7JT, UK

2 Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Metabolic Science, Box 285, Addenbrookes Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ, UK

3 School of Medicine, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7JT, UK

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:47  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-47

Published: 24 May 2011

Abstract

Background

The weather may be a driver of seasonal patterns in children's physical activity (PA). A better understanding of the relationships between weather and PA may help increase children's PA. This study aims to examine the association between PA and rainfall in 9-10 year old children, and how it may be modified by school policies.

Methods

1794 participants in the SPEEDY study in Norfolk, UK recorded PA using ActiGraph accelerometers over up to six days in the summer term of 2007. Multilevel regression models were used to determine the day-by-day association between rainfall and minutes spent sedentary, in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA), and average counts per minute (cpm) over the whole day (07:00-21:00) and the lunchtime period (12:00-14:00). School policies for break times in bad weather were fitted as interaction terms with rainfall.

Results

Relative to days with no rain, children spent 9.4 minutes (95%CI 7.0 to 11.9) fewer in MVPA, were sedentary for 13.6 minutes (8.8 to 18.4) more, and accumulated 85.9 cpm (66.2 to 105.5) fewer over the whole day on the wettest days. Children allowed to play outside in wet weather showed the lowest lunchtime PA levels on the wettest days, undertaking 9.8 minutes (6.2 to 13.5) fewer MVPA, 16.1 minutes (10.3 to 21.9) more sedentary, and accumulating 408.0 cpm (250.9 to 565.1) fewer than those allowed to be active indoors.

Conclusions

Rainfall is negatively associated with PA in primary school children, but providing indoor physical activities in wet weather may help children maintain physical activity levels irrespective of rainfall.