Objectives Many children in inner-city schools spend an entire school-day sitting. Even on days with physical education (PE), it is unclear whether students’ physical activity levels increase. Objectives: 1) To determine students’ baseline physical activity levels; 2) To assess students’ physical activity levels on days with or without PE.
Methods A prospective observational study of kindergarten and first grade students in inner-city elementary school. We obtained subjects’ height, weight and demographic data. Physical activity was measured by a sealed Yamax Digi-Walker pedometer worn by subjects during 5 consecutive school days. We calculated body mass index (BMI) for age and defined “overweight” as a BMI ⩾85%. Mean number of steps was computed for days with and without PE. We compared mean number of steps to BMI-referenced standards. Independent and paired samples t-tests were used.
Results Of 179 participants, 169 (94.4%) had complete data. 48.5% were male; mean age was 5.9 years (SD 0.6). Over 47% of students were “overweight”. Students took an average of 2606 (SD 1255) steps/day. In contrast, the published norm for pedometer-determined steps in 6-year-old children is 6599 (SD 1008) steps. Similarly, overweight students took fewer steps than published standards for overweight 6-year-old children (2587 (SD 1239) vs 4988 (SD 1206)). Overall, students took significantly more steps on PE days than on non-PE days (2798 vs 2571, p = 0.004).
Conclusions Pedometer-measured physical activity in inner-city students is substantially lower than reported norms. Although students took more steps on PE days, this number was also less than the recommended standard.