Poster Session
Issue Date: July 2015
Published Online: July 01, 2015
Updated: April 30, 2020
Designing Classroom Routines to Promote Physical Activity in Children
Article Information
School-Based Practice / Prevention and Intervention
Poster Session   |   July 01, 2015
Designing Classroom Routines to Promote Physical Activity in Children
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911515161.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911515161.

Date Presented 4/17/2015

A classroom-based, physical-activity program for third graders increased fitness measures after 5 mo of implementation. Occupational therapists (OTs) partnered with teachers to provide wellness programming in the classroom to combat childhood obesity.

SIGNIFICANCE: Childhood obesity has the potential to affect children’s self-esteem, school functioning, and social participation. Although numerous nutrition and afterschool programs have been developed, more than 20% of all children in the United States still experience obesity. This study examined the impact of increasing physical activity within the classroom to promote a healthy lifestyle and to combat obesity. Occupational therapy faculty and graduate students partnered with teachers to determine whether a classroom-based, physical-activity program—called ABC for Fitness—would increase fitness and decrease body mass index (BMI) in elementary children.
INNOVATION: This study was unique in that physical activity intervention was designed around a typical third-grade classroom environment. Students participated in 30 min of physical activity per day as part of classroom routine. The program offered fun, imaginative breaks around transition times to complement academic work and to refocus children with physical activity at regular intervals.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Research questions included the following: (1) Does a daily classroom-based, physical-activity program have an impact on physical fitness and BMI in third-grade students? (2) What processes may facilitate implementing classroom-based fitness programs?
RATIONALE: Decreased levels of physical activity are among factors fueling childhood obesity. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends 60 min of physical activity per day to maintain fitness and to decrease obesity, most children do not achieve this goal. This study added 30 min of extra activity to classroom routines.
METHOD: The study used a mixed-methods design. The quantitative component was a quasi-experimental, pretest–posttest design in which four schools in two communities participated. Two experimental schools implemented ABC for Fitness for 5 mo from February to June, 2011. Qualitative focus groups were conducted with a group of teachers and three classes of students to collect process evaluation following the program.
Twelve classrooms in four public elementary schools served as the setting. A total of 239 (110 experimental, 129 control) third-grade students were invited to participate. Inclusion criteria were being a third-grade student and parental permission. Outcome measures were BMI and standardized fitness measures for third graders: abdominal strength (curl-ups), upper-extremity strength (push-ups), flexibility (sit and reach), and aerobic capacity (0.50-mile run). Data were analyzed through repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) with SPSS Version 18. Focus groups were analyzed via content analysis.
RESULTS: All students improved on most measures of physical fitness. However, students in the intervention schools showed greater improvement compared to controls for curl-ups and push-ups (p < .01) and approached significance for sit and reach left as well as 0.50-mile run (p < .10). Changes in BMI for age were not significant. Qualitative themes indicated that teachers appreciated the flexible design of the program, creating their own “ABC routines” and consultation by occupational therapists (OTs) to assist with regulating students. Students enjoyed the high-intensity burst the most and liked becoming aware of bodies.
CONCLUSION: A classroom-based, physical-activity program increased fitness in third-grade students over a 5-mo period. OTs partnered with teachers to create a positive change in children’s health and wellness. Challenges in implementing school-based program are discussed.