Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Exercise Science

First Advisor

Russell R Pate


Physical activity (PA) is a critical public health concern, especially in the wake of marked increases in the prevalence of childhood obesity. Many institutions have the potential to influence the physical activity behaviors of children, but perhaps none as much as schools. Schools have been charged with providing opportunities for children to be active, but there is still much to be learned about these opportunities and how much activity children are actually achieving. The purpose of this dissertation was to carefully measure the physical activity behaviors of children in the school setting. To examine the study aims, data were collected at ten elementary schools in central South Carolina. First- and fifth-grade students wore an ActiGraph accelerometer for one school week (Monday-Friday) in order to determine physical activity levels. The first study described the levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during school and across the entire day, and the contribution of in-school activity to total daily activity was calculated. Boys and girls accumulated 46 minutes and 30 minutes of MVPA in-school, respectively (p <0.05). The proportion of in-school to total MVPA and VPA was 51.9% and 55.1%, respectively. While first grade students met recommendations for in-school activity, MVPA in 5th grade students was much lower, especially in girls. The second study focused on observed time spent in physical education class (PE) and recess and described levels of MVPA in these two settings. Percent of time spent in MVPA during PE was approximately 30%, except for 5th grade girls, who spent 23% of PE class in MVPA. Percent of time spent in MVPA during recess was higher for 1st graders compared to 5th graders (65% vs. 48%, respectively). In summary, while school-based MVPA accounted for about half of the participants' total daily MVPA, the levels of overall activity in this sample were below recommended standards. The proportion of time spent in MVPA during PE was lower than recommended by expert panels. This dissertation provides a unique examination of school-based activity and highlights the need for continued research on the physical activity behaviors of children, especially at school.