School physical education (PE) and playtime provide important opportunities for physical activity (PA). However, little research has assessed PA during primary school PE using accelerometry or compared PA during different lesson types. There is also a lack of research comparing PA during PE and playtime, despite suggestions that playtime promotes more PA. The primary aim of this study was to determine which types of PE lesson are most facilitative of PA. The secondary aim was to determine whether children are more active during PE or playtime.
Descriptive and fitness data were assessed in 20 children aged 8-9years from a single school. Over eight consecutive weeks PA was assessed during PE lessons, which were classified as either team games or movement activities. At the mid-week of data collection playtime PA was also assessed. PA was assessed using accelerometry and the percentage of time spent in moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) calculated. Paired t-tests were used to compare MVPA during movement lessons and team games lessons and during PE and playtime.
Children spent 9.5% of PE lessons in MVPA and engaged in significantly more MVPA during team games (P < 0.001). MVPA was also significantly higher during PE than playtime (P < 0.01).
Children do not engage in sufficient PA during PE, but are most active during team games lessons; whilst PA during playtime is lower than PE. Interventions to increase PA during both PE and playtime are therefore required. PE interventions should target games lessons as they dominate the curriculum, encourage most PA and present the greatest potential for change. Playtime interventions should encourage participation in active games through the provision of playground equipment and markings.