Quality PE Classes versus After-School Physical Activity: Which Contributes to Adolescents’ Aerobic Capacity More?


Liu, W., Zillifro, T., Nichols, R., Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA

Purpose: Few studies investigate how moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in PE classes and after-school MVPA contribute to adolescents’ fitness development differently. This study examined how MVPA in PE classes versus after-school MVPA was associated with adolescents’ aerobic capacity development. Methods: One hundred and thirty-two students (64 girls) in a PE4life Academy middle school (S1) and 96 students (50 girls) in a same-area school (S2) with a traditional PE program completed PACER at the beginning of their 6th grade (baseline) and the end of 8th grade (follow-up). PACER scores between the two schools at the follow-up were compared using one-way MANCOVA controlling for the baseline scores. In addition, 45 lessons were observed at each school during the three years to measure MVPA in the PE class using the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time, and the between-school differences in MVPA in PE classes were compared with one-way MANOVA. Further, weekly after-school MVPA was measured using Self-Administered Physical Activity Checklist at the end of 6th grade, end of 7th grade, and end of 8th grade, respectively, and the results between S1 and S2 were compared using independent t tests. Two schools were comparable in socioeconomic status (median household income $30K), ethnicity (White > 90%), and weekly PE class time (approximately 90 minutes). Results: Difference in percentage of the PE class time spent in MVPA between S1 and S2 was significant (p < .001) in favor of S1, 67.56±10.57 vs. 43.25±12.03, but there were no significant between-school differences in after-school MVPA minutes at any of the three assessment points for both boys (S1 258.21±175.43 vs. S2 288.70±168.11, 311.75±203.64 vs. 313.54±115.89, 328.91±163.60 vs.345.00±218.01) and girls (S1 262.50±164.43 vs. S2 303.33±217.49, 297.69±130.40 vs. 314.04±191.26, and 280.38±153.99 vs. 312.00±157.17). As for the PACER performance, S1 demonstrated significantly higher adjusted means (p < .05) at the follow-up for both boys (51.58 vs. 33.84, p < .001) and girls (30.15 vs. 25.15). Conclusion: Compared with after-school activities, PE classes reach every kid in the school, and quality PE classes provided by PE4life Academy School with large percentage of MVPA time are more associated with adolescents’ aerobic capacity development.

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