Physical activity (PA) guidelines for children recommend accruing 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day. Rural children accumulate the majority of their PA at school, so PA opportunities, such as physical education (PE), recess, and classroom-based PA (CBPA) in the rural school environment are critical for this population. There is limited research exploring these PA opportunities in the rural elementary school setting to understand which opportunities provide the most MVPA. PURPOSE: To determine the proportion of time rural children spend at different intensities during three specific PA opportunities available during the school day: PE, recess, and CBPA. METHODS: Objectively measured PA levels were collected over a period of four school days at six rural elementary schools using research-grade accelerometers. Accelerometers were worn on the waist during school hours by 292 children (grades 1-5). Daily wear times and school schedules were provided by teachers and were matched to the children’s accelerometer data to determine the amount of time spent at different intensities during each PA opportunity. ANOVA was used to detect differences with an alpha level of 0.05. RESULTS: The average duration for each PA opportunity was 44 minutes of recess, 32 minutes of PE, and 19 minutes of CBPA. Children in our sample of rural elementary schools spent 18 ± 14% (M±SD) of recess time in MVPA, 16 ± 15% of PE in MVPA, and 11% ± 15% of CBPA in MVPA. Boys engaged in higher levels of MVPA than girls across all PA opportunities (p<0.001). First grade children accrued more time in MVPA across domains when compared to their fifth grade counterparts (p<0.001). Sedentary and light intensity activities were higher for older children and girls (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: Scheduling PA opportunities with the highest proportion of MVPA may be an effective method to increase activity in rural elementary school children. This sample of children are not meeting the recommendations of 50% for proportion of time spent in MVPA during recess and PE. Targeting approaches to increase MVPA during these already scheduled opportunities may help children reach daily recommendations.

Supported by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2011-68001-30020

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