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In the Zone: An Investigation Into Physical Activity During Recess on Traditional Versus Zoned Playgrounds

Jillian Barnas, Colin Wunder II, Steve Ball


Introduction: The prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States has reached epidemic status with some states with rates as high as 20%. The most effective interventions for combating inactivity target children before inactivity develops in their adolescent years. If effective, school-aged physical activity (PA) interventions would decrease sedentary behavior and help combat childhood obesity. The main purpose of this study was to compare changes in PA of youth during recess following zoning of a traditional playground. A secondary purpose was to investigate which zones elicit the greatest levels of activity for boys and girls. A tertiary purpose is to compare observational measures of PA (SOPLAY instrument) to PA measured via pedometry. Method: PA for 364 boys and girls from two institutions were observed and recorded at recess with the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth (SOPLAY) and pedometers. Baseline data were collected for 1 week on traditional playgrounds. After 1 week, the playgrounds were zoned for specific activity, and PA was again observed and recorded. Results: The average percentage of boys and girls considered to be very active increased by 10% following zoning, according to SOPLAY data. Average number of steps during recess also increased by a mean of 175 steps on zoned playgrounds versus traditional. Conclusion: Interventions, both within and outside of school, aimed at improving activity levels and changing behavior will help to quell the obesity epidemic. A zoned playground can be used as a simple and effective strategy that reduces sedentary behavior and increases activity during recess. 

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physical activity; youth; SOPLAY; pedometers; Recess; Zoned; Playgrounds;

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