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The Effects of Asynchronous Music on the Physical Activities of Youth in Supervised Recreation Activities

Jonathan Bassett, Stephanie West, Kindal Shores


Findings from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination indicate that in the United States childhood obesity has nearly tripled in the past 30 years (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden & Curtin, 2010). This is cause for concern since childhood obesity is linked to cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes (Freedman, Mei, Srinivasan, Berenson & Dietz, 2007). However, researchers evaluating the role of physical activity in obesity prevention have suggested that physical activity may independently bestow a protective effect on the health risks associated with obesity (Welk & Blair, 2000). The socio-ecological model provides a framework to design physical activity interventions in recreational programs aimed to reduce obesity in children. This model asserts that behavior is influenced in a hierarchy by a combination of factors occurring simultaneously. One factor is the environment. The use of music has been shown to affect physical activity and thus warrants consideration as a viable environmental factor in a recreational atmosphere. For example, there is a growing body of research in sports and exercise linking effects of music to increased performance. While this research often correlates the use of music with athletes being able to maintain higher levels of physical activity and increased speed, at least one study has used asynchronous music as an intervention to promote physical activity and results indicated that it can be used to increase or intensify participants’ physical activity levels (Kerr, Yore, Ham, & Dietz, 2004). Together, there is compelling evidence to warrant investigation of music as a mechanism to increase physical activity in youth. The present study examines the association of asynchronous (background) music with physical activity levels during children’s free play. Youth physical activity was monitored using accelerometers worn during both with and without music activity sessions. Findings indicate that attention to asynchronous music in the program environment may indeed pay dividends in participants’ activity rates. On average, children were significantly more active when music was played than when it was not. Analysis of covariance indicated statistically significant within group differences associated with grade level and BMI. The remaining covariates, gender and ethnicity, did not show significant differences. Music showed the greatest increase with second grade students followed by fourth and third graders, while fifth graders showed a decrease. When comparing BMI groups, playing music showed the greatest increase in minutes of physical activity in students within the normal BMI percentile. Overweight participants had approximately the same minutes of physical activity while both underweight and obese percentiles showed activity decreases when music was played. Findings from the current study provide a baseline understanding of the efficacy of using asynchronous music for promoting physical activity among elementary school aged children involved in organized recreation. Additional limitations, suggestions for future research, and applications are discussed.


Accelerometer; activity promotion; asynchronous music; physical activity; recreation program

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