Physical education environment and student physical activity levels in low-income communities

Soyang Kwon*, Sarah Welch, Maryann Mason

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: The purpose of this study was to examine the association of physical education (PE) class characteristics, such as lesson context, teacher's physical activity (PA) promotion behavior, and lesson location, with student engagement in moderate- A nd vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) during PE lessons in elementary school (ES), middle school (MS), and high school (HS). Methods: The study sample included 2106 PE classes from 40 schools located in low-income communities. The System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT) was used to assess lesson context, teacher's behavior, and student PA during PE lessons. Mixed models were used to examine the association between PE class characteristics and the probability of meeting the recommended level of MVPA during PE lessons (MVPA ≥50%), accounting for within-school random effects and school characteristics. Results: Almost all PE classes (90%) with ≥60-70% of lesson time spent in motor content and ≥ 10-20% in teacher's in-class PA promotion met the recommended level of MVPA across the school levels. More specifically, among the sub-categories of motor content, more lesson time spent in fitness was significantly associated with MVPA ≥50% in all school levels. However, more lesson time spent in game play was a significant factor only in ES (OR = 2.1; 95% CI = 1.4-3.0). Outdoor lessons were a significant factor in ES (OR = 5.3; 95% CI = 3.1-9.0) and MS (OR = 21.0; 95% CI = 6.3-69.4), but not HS (OR = 1.4; 95% CI = 0.6, 3.2). Conclusions: PE lessons with higher motor content and higher teacher's in-class PA promotion are more likely to meet the recommended level of MVPA in all school levels. However, the sub-categories of motor content and lesson location could impact student MVPA differently by school levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number147
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2020


  • Elementary school
  • High school
  • Lesson context
  • Middle school
  • Motor content
  • Teacher behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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