Fjortoft, I., Lofman, O. & Thoren, K. (2010). Schoolyard physical activity in 14-year-old adolescents assessed by mobile GPS and heart rate monitoring analysed by GIS. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 38(Suppl 5), 28-37. doi: 10.1177/1403494810384909
Physical activity is an important aspect to healthy lifestyle, in both children and adults. Unfortunately, research suggests that physical activity consistently decreases with age, especially during adolescent years (about 9-15 years old).
Physical activity during school breaks is a significant source of exercise for children. An important influence of physical activity during school breaks are amount and quality of facilities provided to children.
Recently, physical activity has been monitored through technology such as GPS and GIS. GPS can be used to trace patterns of physical activity in children, while heart monitoring technology can be analyzed with GIS to provide spatial analysis.
In this article, the authors combined GPS and heart rate monitoring to study the interaction between physical activity and school environments. They observed 14-year-old children in two different school settings during lunchtime in order to determine movement patterns and levels of physical activity and whether it differed as a function of factors such as school, time, and gender.
The Gudeberg school was in a sub-urban area with open fields and the following facilities: volleyball field, ballgame bin, and single court for handball and volleyball. The Begby school was semi-rural with a forested area and the following facilities: areas for handball, basketball, soccer, and volleyball. The children at Gudeberg are given 25 minutes for lunchtime, while children at Begby are given 45 minutes.
The children's X- and Y- coordinates were recorded with a wrist watch that contained mobile GPS and connected to a chest belt that recorded heart rate. The data was collected, exported to a dbf database, converted to a projected coordinate system, and geocoded into ArcInfo using metric units. Heart rate was analyzed in three ways: visually, in a 20 x 20 meter grid, and continuous surface modeling with ordinary kriging. Geostatics were calculated in ArcInfo and other statistics were calculated in SPSS and Axum. All p-values< 0.05 were statistically significant.
Overall, children from both schools maintained low heart rates and displayed low levels of physical activity. The average activity included walking from one destination to another, with a slight increase in activity at the handball area. Movement patterns occurred in clusters. These results suggest school environments do not increase daily physical activity, and that schools may need to explore other options for encouraging physical activity in children.