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4 oct 2011

Physicak activity among sherbrooke youths and types of physical activity preferred by sherbrooke youths (4-17 years)

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Experts suggest that children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 can achieve substantial health benefits by doing moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity for periods of time that add up to 60 minutes or more each day.


Autor(es):
Perreault, G., Turcotte, S., Morin, P., and Roy, M.-A.
Entidades(es): Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de l’Estrie, Faculté d’éducation physique et sportive (FEPS), Centre de santé et de services sociaux
Congreso: VII CONGRESO DE LA ASOCIACIÓN INTERNACIONAL DE ESCUELAS SUPERIORES DE EDUCACIÓN FÍSICA (AIESEP)
A Coruña, 26-29 de Octubre de 2010
ISBN: 978-84-614-9946-5
Palabras claves:physical activity youths

ABSTRACT

Experts suggest that children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 can achieve substantial health benefits by doing moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity for periods of time that add up to 60 minutes or more each day. This paper aims to describe the physical activity profile of Sherbrooke youths (4–17 year-olds) and to present factors contributing to their disengagement from physical activity. A cross-sectional study was conducted. In all, 8,612 questionnaires were completed by parents of elementary school and 5,250 by high-school students. The results show that only two out of five children and adolescents engaged in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Boys were more likely to do so than girls. There’s an increase in the proportion of boys and girls in early adolescence who reach experts recommendations and it decreases throughout the rest of adolescence. Many individual and environmental factors contribute to the disengagement of youths from physical activity. The results show the necessity to pursue health-promotion initiatives to encourage more youths to engage in 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity. Special attention should be paid to high-school students because the disengagement process starts in adolescence and is more pronounced among teenage girls.

INTRODUCTION

In recent decades, the prevalence of overweight among children has increased considerably. An estimated 10% of the world’s school-agers are considered to be carrying excess body fat and a quarter of them are obese (Lobstein et al. 2004). From 1978 to 2004, Québec saw an increase of 55% of children carrying excess body fat, mainly due to the increased prevalence. More precisely, 16% of children aged 2 to 17 are considered overweight and 7%, obese (Lamontagne & Hamel, 2009).

There is a correlation between the prevalence of overweight and sedentary behaviours. Actually, regular physical activity can help to prevent and reduce obesity or to maintain healthy weight (World Health Organization, 2007). In fact, energy expenditure through physical activity is the key to controlling weight (Le Menestrel & Perkins, 2007).

Experts suggest that children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 can achieve substantial health benefits by doing moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity for periods of time that add up to 60 minutes or more each day (Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, 2008). The proportion of youths who are physically active has increased over the past decade. However, activity levels for Canadian children and youths are still far from sufficient (Cameron & al., 2005).  Results show that boys are more likely than girls to participate in daily moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity and these differences between genders are significant at all ages (Currie & al., 2008). The proportion of youths reaching this expert recommendation decreases throughout the adolescence (Currie & al., 2008; Nolin & Hamel, 2005).

To be engaged in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should focus on three types of activity: 1) organized sports, 2) free play and 3) active transportation. According to Le Menestrel and Perkins (2007), individuals who participate in organized sports as teens are more likely to participate in sports and physical activity as adults. However, Québec is among Canadian provinces where sports participation of children aged 5 to 14 is the lowest (Clark, 2008).

Although free play is less structured than organized sports, people can derive substantial physical and psychological benefits from it. For instance, children having at least one daily recess lasting 15 minutes or more are more likely to behave better in the classroom (Barros & al., 2009).

Finally, active transportation helps children to reach the levels recommended by experts: children who walk to school are associated with higher levels of overall physical activity compared to those who go to school by motorized transport (Cooper & al., 2005). A Québec study shows that only 15% of boys and girls walk or bike to school (Desrosiers, 2007).

However, there are some barriers that are perceived hindrances for being active. Those barriers could be specific to the local environment and physical activity opportunities in the community. Others could be related to the individual. According to Cameron et al. (2005), parents reported some barriers for their children’s physical activity. Among those barriers, there are 1) dollar costs for their child participating in physical activity or sport are too high, 2) too much traffic, 3) lack of information on the opportunities for physical activity and sport for the child in the community and 4) child’s lack of skill for doing physical activity or sport.

The purposes of this study was to describe the physical activity profile of Sherbrooke youths (4 to 17 year-olds), to describe the types of physical activity they preferred in adopting a physically active lifestyle, to distinguish physical activity preferences between boys and girls and to present the factors contributing to their disengagement from physical activity. 

AREA OF STUDY

According to the congress contents, the area of this study is Physical Activity for Health.

METHODOLOGY

Context

In spring 2008, as part of a multifaceted community project, a cross-sectional study was conducted with the participation of five organizations from Sherbrooke, Québec’s 6th most populous city (pop.  150,000). These organizations wanted to know the lifestyle habits of Sherbrooke youths in order to take subsequent action.

Participants

The participants of this study are students from the entire Sherbrooke School Board (37 elementary schools and 5 high schools), which includes French-language public schools. In all, 13,862 questionnaires were completed by parents of elementary school (N= 8,612) and by high-school students (N=5,250). The participation rate for this study is 79% in elementary school and 83% for high-school students.

Procedures

In elementary school, a questionnaire and a letter explaining the study were sent to all parents. Parents could fill the questionnaire online or fill the paper version and return it to their child’s teacher. For high-school students, they filled the questionnaire during classes. The main topics of this questionnaire were physical activity levels, organized sports, free play, active transportation and factors contributing to disengagement.

Data analysis

RESULTS

60 minutes or more of daily physical activity

The results of this study show that only two out of five children and adolescents (41.4%) engaged in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity (Table 1). Boys were more likely to do so than girls, both in elementary and high schools. Almost half (48.5%) of the boys and one third (34.3%) of the girls engaged in 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity. The results also show that high-school boys are the ones with the higher proportion of students engaged in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Table 1. Proportion of students engaged in 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity
by gender and school level

Table 1. Proportion of students engaged in 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity
by gender and school level

Contenido disponible en el CD Colección Congresos nº 16

 

The proportion of boys and girls who engage in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity increases in early adolescence. This proportion decreases throughout the rest of adolescence, except for 17-year-old boys (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Proportion of Sherbrooke youths engaged in at least 60 minutes of
daily physical activity by age

Contenido disponible en el CD Colección Congresos nº 16

Organized sports

Participation in organized sports is one way to achieve experts’ recommendations concerning physical activity. In elementary school, two thirds (67.8%) of children participated in organized sports, with a slightly higher proportion of boys (Table 2). In high school, nearly two thirds (63.1%) participated in organized sports, with a higher proportion of boys. In fact, high-school girls are the ones having a proportion of students participating in organized sports below the 60% mark. Moreover, elementary school students are more likely to participate in organized sports than high-school students, for boys and girls.

Table 2. Proportion of students participating in organized sports
by gender and school level

Contenido disponible en el CD Colección Congresos nº 16

 

Free play

Free play results show that almost every student (97.4%) had engaged in some free play over the year, in elementary school (Table 3). Furthermore, the majority of high-school students (92.8%) had engaged in free play. As for organized sports, elementary school boys and girls are more likely to participate in free play than high school students.
 

Table 3. Proportion of students engaged in free play by gender and school level

Contenido disponible en el CD Colección Congresos nº 16

Active transportation

Another way to be engaged in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity is to opt for active transportation to go to school. Table 4 shows the proportion of students choosing active transportation to go to school by gender and school level. In elementary school, three out of ten students (29.7%) went to school primarily by walking, biking, or rollerblading during fall. The proportion dropped to 20.8% during winter. In high school, a little over one out of four (26.3%) opted for active transportation during fall, with the percentage dropping to 15.8% during winter. For each gender and school level, the proportion of students going to school by active transportation is lower during winter than during fall.     

 

Table 4. Proportion of students choosing active transportation to go to school
during fall and winter by gender and school level

Contenido disponible en el CD Colección Congresos nº 16

 

Gender preferences

When it is time to choose an organized sport, boys and girls seem to look different ways. In fact, boys are more likely to opt for team sports such as soccer, ice hockey and American football. However, girls’ preferences concern more individual sports: dance, aquatics, gymnastics, etc. Nevertheless, girls practice some team sports: soccer, volleyball and cheerleading. Results also show that boys and girls alike enjoyed water activities during summer, and skiing and snowboarding during winter.

As for organized sports, boys and girls have different preferences in free play (Figure 2). Boys preferred team sports and girls preferred individual sports. However, there are some similarities in preferences.

Figure 2. Preferences in free play

Contenido disponible en el CD Colección Congresos nº 16

Main factors contributing to the disengagement of youths from physical activity

Many factors contribute to the disengagement of youths from physical activity. Those factors could be divided in two categories: individual factors and environmental factors. Elementary school students’ parents thought that the main individual factors contributing to the disengagement of their child from physical activity are: lack of time, lack of interest in physical activity, lack of determination and discipline, homework and the fact that their child doesn’t like physical activity. The results are kind of similar for high-school students: lack of time, dislike of sweating, lack of energy, lack of interest in physical activity and lack of determination and discipline. 

For environmental factors, elementary school students’ parents indicated that the main environmental factors contributing to the disengagement of their child from physical activity are the following: difficulty walking or biking to school safely, lots of traffic, high cost of sport equipment, high cost of activity fees and distance of facilities from home. The main environmental factors mentioned by high-school students were quite similar than those mentioned by parents of elementary school students: high cost of sport equipment, lack of information about physical activities offered in the area, high cost of activity fees, insufficient lighting and difficulty walking or biking to school safely.

When the results of parents of elementary school and high-school students are put together, it shows that environmental factors contribute more to the disengagement from physical activity than individual factors (Table 5).

 

Table 5. Main factors contributing to the disengagement of youths from physical activity

Contenido disponible en el CD Colección Congresos nº 916

DISCUSSION

This study investigated the physical activity profile of Sherbrooke youths aged 4 to 17. Results show that only two out of five children and adolescents engaged in 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity. Those results confirm the findings of another Québec study (Nolin & Hamel, 2005) that states that less than half of children and adolescents achieve experts’ recommendations concerning physical activity.

The results also confirm that boys are more likely than girls to participate in daily physical activity. The differences between genders are significant at all ages (Currie & al., 2008). They also corroborate that the proportion of youths achieving experts’ recommendation decreases throughout adolescence (Nolin & Hamel, 2005).

This study investigated the types of physical activity preferred by Sherbrooke youths in adopting a physically active lifestyle. The results show that no matter if it is organized sports, free play or active transportation; the results demonstrate that elementary school students are more likely to participate in those activities than high school students.

Boys seem to be more interested to adopt a physically active lifestyle than girls. The results also show that whatever the type of physical activity, boys are more likely to participate than girls. Different studies also found that boys tend to be more active than girls (Clark, 2008; Currie & al., 2008; Nolin & Hamel, 2005).

The results of this study show that only a minority of youths use active transportation to go to school. Desrosiers (2007) found similar results about children who bike or walk to school. Moreover, the proportion of students going to school primarily by walking, biking, or rollerblading is lower during winter than during fall.

This study also distinguished physical activity preferences between boys and girls. Despite some similarities, results illustrate that boys prefer team sports and girls have a preference for individual activities. It confirms the findings of Hill & Cleven (2005) stating that girls were more likely to select individual activities, while boys preferred team sports such as American football.

This study also examined the factors contributing to the disengagement of youths from physical activity. It shows that individual and environmental factors could contribute to the disengagement from physical activity. Environmental factors are the ones that are more frequent. Cameron & al. (2005) found similar environmental barriers for children’s physical activity such as the high costs of participation in physical activity and sport and the lack of information about physical activities offered in the area.

CONCLUSION

The results show the necessity to pursue health-promotion initiatives to encourage more youths to engage in 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity. Special attention should be paid to high-school students because the disengagement process starts in adolescence and is more pronounced among teenage girls.

Although there are some youths who choose active transportation to go to school, the proportion of boys and girls who go to school biking or walking should increase. More bike paths and sidewalks should be built around the schools in order to get a safer environment. Moreover, if those sidewalks and bike paths are built, the organizations that participated in this study would have to promote those facilities.

The results of this study highlighted the need to encourage more Sherbrooke youths to participate in organized sports, which could provide the impetus to adopt a physically active lifestyle. To this end, organized sports offered to children and adolescents should consider the preferences of boys and girls.

Decision-makers should promote quality physical education programs. Those programs allow youths to develop knowledge, skills and habits. So, if youths can have this kind of physical education, they can adopt or maintain healthy and physically active lifestyles.

Finally, to increase the proportion of physically active youths, it is a necessity that the chosen initiatives involve the participation of health services, local authorities, members of the school community, students and their parents.

REFERENCES

Barros, R.M., & al. (2009): School Recess and Group Classroom Behavior. Pediatrics, 123 (2): 431-436.

Cameron, C., Craig, C.L., & Paolin, S. (2005): Local opportunities for physical activity and sports: Trends from 1999-2004. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute.

Clark, W. (2008): Kids’ sports. Canadian Social Trends, 85: 54-61. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 11-008-XIE. Retrieved November 7, 2010, from http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/Statcan/11-008-XIE/11-008-XIE.html.

Cooper, A.R., & al. (2005): Physical Activity Levels of Children Who Walk, Cycle, or are Driven to School. American Journal of Preventive Medecine, 29 (3): 179-184.

Currie C., & al. (2008): Inequalities in young people’s health: international report from the HBSC 2005/06 survey (Health Policy for Children and Adolescents, No.5). WHO Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen.

Desrosiers, H. (2007): La pratique d’activités physiques et sportives en dehors des heures de classe chez les enfants de 6 ans. Portraits et trajectoires. Institut de la statistique du Québec.

Hill, G., & Cleven, B. (2005): A Comparison of 9th Grade Male and Female Physical Education Activities Preferences and Support for Coeducational Groupings. The Physical Educator,62 (4): 187-197.

Lamontagne, P., & Hamel, D. (2009): Le poids corporel chez les enfants et adolescents du Québec: de 1978 à 2005. Institut national de santé publique du Québec.

Le Menestrel, S., & Perkins, D. (2007): An overview of how sports, out-to-school time, and youth well-being can and do intersect. New Directions for Youth Development, 115: 13-25.

Lobstein, T., Baur, L. & Uauy, R. for the IOTF Childhood Obesity Working Group. (2004): Obesity in children and young people: a crisis in public health. Obesity Review 5 Suppl. 1, pp. 4-85.

Nolin, B., & Hamel, D. (2005): Les Québécois bougent plus mais pas assez In Venne, M., & Robitaille, A. l’Annuaire du Québec 2006. Montréal, Fides, pp. 296-311.

Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2008): 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Be Active, Healthy, and Happy! Washington: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2007): Promoting physical activity in school: an important element of a health-promoting school. WHO information series on school health, document 12, 40 pp.

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