Research Study Abstract

Structure of Physical Activity Opportunities Contribution to Children’s Physical Activity Levels in After-School Programs

  • Published on June 3, 2019

The primary purpose of this study was to determine which physical activity (PA) opportunity elicits the most moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) in after-school programs. This study used a 3-group cross-over design in which participants were exposed to 3 variations of activity structures: free play, organized, or a mixture.

PA was measured using ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometers. All data were transformed into percentage of time spent sedentary or in MVPA. Repeated-measures mixed-effects models were used to examine differences in MVPA and sedentary among the 3 activity sessions. Participants included 197 unique children, aged 5–12 years, and were 53% male and 55% white.

Statistically significant differences were observed in the percentage of time boys spent in MVPA during free play and mixed compared with organized only sessions (35.8% and 34.8% vs 29.4%). No significant difference was observed in the percentage of time girls spent in MVPA during free play compared with organized or mixed (27.2% and 26.1% vs 26.1%). Both boys and girls experienced ∼10% less time sedentary during free play compared with the others.

Offering free play during PA opportunities can help children attain as much if not more MVPA compared with only offering organized, adult-led games.


  • Jessica L. Chandler 1
  • Keith Brazendale 2
  • Clemens Drenowatz 3
  • Justin B. Moore 4
  • Xuemei Sui 2
  • Robert G. Weaver 2
  • Michael W. Beets 2


  • 1

    College of Nursing, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC

  • 2

    Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

  • 3

    Department of Teacher Education, Pädagogische Hochschule Oberösterreich, Linz, Austria

  • 4

    Department of Family and Community Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC


Journal of Physical Activity and Health


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