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Contribution of Free Play towards Physical Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Primary School Children Aged 7-9 years
  1. Soroya E McGall (soroyam{at}
  1. Waikato Institute of Technology, New Zealand
    1. Michael R McGuigan (mikem{at}
    1. Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
      1. Carmel Nottle (carmel.nottle{at}
      1. University of South Australia, Australia


        Objective: Objectives of this study were to investigate children’s physical activity patterns to gain comparisons between home and school, and to determine whether the current physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily were being met.

        Methods: Participants were recruited from two New Zealand primary schools (60 children, mean ± SD: age: 8.3 ± 0.7 years). Physical activity was measured for seven consecutive days using Actigraph accelerometers. Total activity and average counts were determined for: school playtime, after school and weekends. Differences between average counts for these intervals were compared using the t statistic. Time and percentage of time spent were categorised into the activity thresholds: sedentary (<100); light (101-299); moderate (3000-5200); vigorous (>5200). Total activity for each day was also determined.

        Results: No child met the recommended 60 minutes of MVPA daily during the investigation. Compared to school play time, activity counts were lower by: 36% (CI = 25 to 45.5%, p<.001, ES = -1.29) after school; 50.1% (CI = 37 to 60.5%, p<.001, ES = -2.01) Saturday; 57.4% (CI = 46.3 to 66.3%, p<.001, ES = -2.47) Sunday. Mean results showed children spent 91-96% of their time engaged in light or sedentary activities. Even during school playtime, where children were most active, only eight out of eighty minutes were spent engaged in MVPA.

        Conclusions: This study found activity levels were considerably lower than the recommended guidelines, and children were more active during school play time, compared to after school and weekends.

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