Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Physical Activity of 14-year-olds in Schools Assessed by GPS and Heart Monitoring Analyzed by GIS

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.


  1. I found this article to be the most interesting, as my high school did a pilot program based off of the book by John J. Ratey, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In this research, it was shown that your brain functions at a higher pace if you exercise with a higher heart rate for a sustained, shorter amount of time, periodically throughout the day. I think it would be interesting to see the heart rate patterns if students were allowed to be outside, 25 minutes, 3 times a day during school hours, and then look at scores, and academic performance. It would be an interesting way to tie in academia.

  2. This was very well done research. I can relate to this as after elementary school I did not exercise as much. I think the data may have been very different if 9 year old instead of 14 year olds were tested since younger children, at least in my experience, tend to be more eager to run about and play than older children. I remember once I got to 5th grade during recess not as many people were running around playing.

  3. I think this article present an interesting application of GIS and could be useful in testing new programs designed to increase physical activity in schools and determine their effectiveness. This study also highlights a growing trend in America. A lack of physical activity can contribute to obesity, along with with other factors. Given this, and the negative impacts obesity can have, I think it is a necessity that more programs designed to increase physical activity,particularly in teenagers, be undertaken. Perhaps using similar methods as the above study could determine their effectiveness in a variety of settings.

  4. It is fascinating to see that GIS can be used to determine ways to improve physical fitness in adolescences. Obesity has become a growing problem in America and this study does show where the highest heart rates are during recess; therefore it also shows where the playground settings can be improved to manipulate higher heart rates. Improvement in physical activity in a young age will build a better foundation for higher physical activity in their futures, and better playgrounds in elementary schools can do so.