A Community-School District-University Partnership for Assessing Physical Activity of “Tweens”
Obtained from the CDC.
Introduction: Obesity among youth is related to a decline in physical activity, and data on physical activity levels among children in elementary and middle schools are limited.
Methods: We leveraged a community–school district–university partnership in Sarasota County, Florida, in May of 2005 to assess physical activity levels among tweens (youth aged 9-13 years) and to measure the relationship between tweens’ awareness of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s VERB program and participation in physical activity, using a minimally obtrusive survey. After surveying participating schools (4 elementary schools and 3 middle schools), we obtained 1,407 responses from children in grades 5 through 7.
Results: In all, 83.1% of students met the federal recommendation for daily participation in vigorous-intensity physical activity (VPA), and 58.6% had tried a new game or sport within the previous 2 months. Mean number of days in the previous week engaging in VPA was significantly higher (P < .001) for boys (5.22) than for girls (4.35). Mean number of days engaging in VPA in the previous week was significantly higher (P = .006) among 6th-grade students (4.93) than 7th-grade students (4.54), but no consistent decline through the grade levels occurred. Activity was significantly correlated with the number of friends reported as playing a game or sport daily (r = .369, P < .001). Most students (88.8%) reported having seen, read, or heard messages or ads about VERB, a tween-centric national social marketing campaign promoting physical activity and participation in new games and sports.
Conclusion: Although participation in VPA was high, girls reported significantly fewer days spent engaged in VPA than did boys. We found a modest association between engaging in VPA and having active friends. Capitalizing on leadership from multiple community-based organizations to monitor youth physical activity may inspire implementation of strategies for motivating youth to try new games and sports that they can sustain through the adolescent years and beyond.