Charles H. Rodgers­­1, Bryce T. Daniels1, Erin K. Howie1

1 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Schools are a practical site of intervention for increasing physical activity (PA) opportunities for children, especially during recess to help ameliorate sedentary habits. Though there is abundant research on schools in American and European settings for PA during recess, no data exist for the West African country Senegal. PURPOSE: Investigate PA levels and behaviors of children at recess in Senegal and compare to children at recess in the US. METHODS:Convenience sampling was performed at 4 public elementary schools in the greater Dakar region of Senegal and 4 public elementary schools in Northwest Arkansas were used as comparisons. Waist-worn accelerometers were used to determine PA based on vector magnitude, total steps taken, and intensity from validated cut points. Intensity cut-points (15s epochs) were sedentary (0–25), light (26-573), moderate (574–1002), and vigorous (>1003). Qualitative observations regarding the nature of social and activity habits were completed at all schools while t-tests were conducted for sex differences, total steps, and intensity, and a one-way ANOVA was computed for country comparisons, each at α = .05. RESULTS: Accelerometry PA during recess was measured for 36 participants in Senegal (56% female) and 167 (50.6% female) in the United States. It was found that American schools were significantly more active at all levels of intensity (p < 0.05). Although, US children spent 21.2 ± 13.0% of recess in vigorous activities compared to 6.4 ± 6.3% for Senegalese (p < 0.001), the average total steps taken was not significantly different (1131 ±489 US vs 1025 ±577 Senegal, p = 0.254).American children in general had more organized games, loose and fixed equipment, and play space; Senegalese recess consisted of socializing in gender divided groups or standing in queues purchasing food items in the school’s courtyard. CONCLUSION: Senegalese children exhibited lower PA than American children during recess. Reasons for this may include the absence of recess equipment and viable play spaces in conjunction with factors such as the distraction of local food vendors and the social context of recess. Future studies analyzing recess across cultures should first understand a country’s perception of recess to establish appropriate hypotheses in novel research contexts.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This study was made possible by the Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the efforts of Omar Batama, Fatoumata Dieng, and Mohamed Diouf.

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