Physical activity levels during school recess in a nationally representative sample of 10-11-year-olds

Wong, Lan Sum and Reilly, John J. and McCrorie, Paul and Harrington, Deirdre M. (2024) Physical activity levels during school recess in a nationally representative sample of 10-11-year-olds. Pediatric Exercise Science, 36 (1). pp. 37-43. ISSN 1543-2920 (

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Purpose: School recess provides a valuable opportunity for children’s daily moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA). This study aimed to quantify MVPA during school recess in a representative sample of Scottish children and examine whether recess MVPA varied by gender, socioeconomic status, season, urban/rural residency, and recess length. Method: Five-day accelerometry MVPA data were analyzed from 773 children (53.9% girls, 46.1% boys, 10- to 11-y-olds) from 471 schools. Binary logistic regression explored associations between meeting/not meeting the recommendation to spend 40% of recess time in MVPA and the aforementioned risk factors. Descriptive recess data were also analyzed. Results: Participants spent an average of 3.2 minutes (SD 2.1) in MVPA during recess. Girls engaged in 2.5 minutes (SD 1.7) of MVPA compared with 4.0 minutes (SD 2.2) for boys. Only 6% of children met the recess MVPA recommendation. The odds of girls (odds ratio 0.09; 95% confidence interval, 0.04–0.25) meeting the recommendation was lower (P < .001) compared with boys. No statistically significant differences were observed in meeting the recommendation for the other risk factors. Conclusion: Levels of MVPA during school recess are very low in Scottish children, and interventions aimed at increasing MVPA during recess are needed.