Promoting physical activity at the school playground: A quasi-experimental intervention study


  • Iván López-Fernández University of Málaga, Spain
  • María Molina-Jodar University of Málaga, Spain
  • Francisco J. Garrido-González University of Málaga, Spain
  • Carlos A. Pascual-Martos University of Málaga, Spain
  • José L. Chinchilla University of Málaga, Spain
  • Elvis A. Carnero University of Málaga, Spain



Physical education, Recess, Playtime, Child


In looking for new strategies to promote physical activity (PA), the purpose of this study was to determine whether providing equipment, playground markings, and a physical education (PE)-based intervention effectively increases PA levels during school recess. A total of 223 children (mean age = 7.10 years ± 0.6; 45.3% female) from three schools participated in this study in 2012. In the first intervention school (G1; n = 75) six previous PE classes teaching games for recess were performed and playground markings and game equipment were provided. In the second intervention school (G2; n = 68) only playground markings and game equipment were provided. The third school served as the control group (GC; n = 80). PA was assessed with pedometers. The increase in mean steps after intervention in G2 was higher than the G1 and GC (< 0.001). No differences between G1 and GC were observed at post-intervention (= 0.05). The effects did not vary by gender or BMI. Providing game equipment and playground marks may increase children PA in recess. Nevertheless, additional PE-based intervention did not imply an improvement, and was not effective in increasing PA.


Download data is not yet available.


Beighle, A., Morgan, C. F., Le Masurier, G., & Pangrazi, R. P. (2006). Children's physical activity during recess and outside of school. J Sch Health, 76, 516-520.

Brink, L., Nigg, C., Lampe, S., Kingston, B., Mootz, A., & Van Vliet, W. (2010). Influence of schoolyard renovations on children's physical activity: The Learning Landscapes Program. Am J Public Health, 100, 1672-1678.

Bruce, T. (2011). Cultivating creativity: for babies, toddlers and young children. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Cole, T. J., Bellizzi, M. C., Flegal, K. M., & Dietz, W. H. (2000). Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey. BMJ, 320, 1240-1243.

Dobbins, M., De Corby, K., Robeson, P., Husson, H., & Tirilis, D. (2009). School-based physical activity programs for promoting physical activity and fitness in children and adolescents aged 6-18. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, (1).

Efrat, M. W. (2013). Exploring effective strategies for increasing the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity children accumulate during recess: a quasi-experimental intervention study. J Sch Health, 83, 265–272.

Hallal, P. C., Andersen, L. B., Bull, F. C., Guthold, R., Haskell, W., & Ekelund, U. (2012). Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. Lancet, 380, 247-257.

Hannon, J. C., & Brown, B. B. (2008). Increasing preschoolers' physical activity intensities: an activity-friendly preschool playground intervention. Prev Med, 46, 532-536.

Hardman, C. A., Horne, P. J., & Rowlands, A. V. (2009). Children's pedometer-determined physical activity during school-time and leisure-time. J Exerc Sci Fit, 7, 129–134.

Howe, C. A., Freedson, P. S., Alhassan, S., Feldman, H. A., & Osganian, S. K. (2012). A recess intervention to promote moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Pediatr Obes, 7, 82-88.

Huberty, J. L., Beets, M. W., Beighle, A., & Welk, G. (2011). Environmental modifications to increase physical activity during recess: preliminary findings from ready for recess. J Phys Act Health, 8 (Suppl 2), S249-256.

Huberty, J. L., Siahpush, M., Beighle, A., Fuhrmeister, E., Silva, P., & Welk, G. (2011). Ready for recess: a pilot study to increase physical activity in elementary school children. J Sch Health, 81, 251-257.

Humbert, M. L., Chad, K. E., Bruner, M. W., Spink, K. S., Muhajarine, N., Anderson, K. D., … Gryba, C. R. (2008). Using a naturalistic ecological approach to examine the factors influencing youth physical activity across grades 7 to 12. Health Educ Behav, 35, 158-173.

Ickes, M. J., Erwin, H., & Beighle, A. (2012). Systematic Review of recess interventions to increase physical activity. J Phys Act Health, 10, 910-926.

Kahan, D. (2008). Recess, extracurricular activities, and active classroom: Means for increasing elementary school students' physical activity. JOPERD, 79(2), 26–39.

Kokkinos, P. (2012). Physical activity, health benefits, and mortality risk. ISRN Cardiol, 2012, 718789.

Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet, 380, 219-229.

Lonsdale, C., Rosenkranz, R. R., Peralta, L. R., Bennie, A., Fahey, P., & Lubans, D. R. (2013). A systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions designed to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in school physical education lessons. Prev Med, 56, 152-161.

Lopes, L., Lopes, V., & Pereira, B. (2009). Physical activity levels in normal weight and overweight portuguese children: an intervention study during an elementary school recess. Int Electron J Health Educ, 12, 10.

López-Fernández, I., Pascual-Martos, C. A., & Alvarez_Carnero, E. (2013). Validation of a pedometer to measure physical activity during school recess. Journal of Sport and Health Research, 5, 167-178.

Loucaides, C. A., Jago, R., & Charalambous, I. (2009). Promoting physical activity during school break times: Piloting a simple, low cost intervention. Prev Med, 48, 332–334.

Parrish, A.-M., Okely, A. D., Stanley, R. M., & Ridgers, N. D. (2013). The effect of school recess interventions on physical activity: a systematic review. Sports Med, 43, 287-299.

Ramstetter, C. L., Murray, R., & Garner, A. S. (2010). The crucial role of recess in schools. J Sch Health, 80, 517-526.

Ridgers, N. D., Salmon, J., Parrish, A.-M., Stanley, R. M., & Okely, A. D. (2012). Physical activity during school recess: a systematic review. American journal of preventive medicine, 43, 320-328.

Ridgers, N. D., Stratton, G., Fairclough, S. J., & Twisk, J. W. (2007). Children's physical activity levels during school recess: a quasi-experimental intervention study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 4, 19.

Scruggs, P. W., Beveridge, S. K., & Watson, D. L. (2003). Increasing children's school time physical activity using structured fitness breaks. Pediatr Exerc Sci, 15, 156-169.

Siahpush, M., Huberty, J. L., & Beighle, A. (2012). Does the effect of a school recess intervention on physical activity vary by gender or race? Results from the ready for recess pilot study. J Public Health Manag Pract, 18, 416-422.

Sinclair, C. D., Stellino, M. B., & Partridge, J. A. (2008). Recess activities of the week (RAW): promoting free time physical activity to combat childhood obesity. Strategies, 21(5), 21-24.

Stanley, R. M., Boshoff, K., & Dollman, J. (2012). Voices in the playground: a qualitative exploration of the barriers and facilitators of lunchtime play. J Sci Med Sport, 15, 44-51.

Stellino, M. B., & Sinclair, C. D. (2013). Psychological predictors of children's recess physical activity motivation and behavior. Res Q Exercise Sport, 84, 167-176.

Stratton, G., & Leonard, J. (2002). The effects of playground markings on the energy expenditure of 5-7-year-old school children. Pediatr Exerc Sci, 14, 170-180.

Tudor-Locke, C., Craig, C. L., Beets, M. W., Belton, S., Cardon, G. M., Duncan, S., & Blair, S. N. (2011). How many steps/day are enough? for children and adolescents. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 8, 78.

Verstraete, S. J. M., Cardon, G. M., De Clercq, D. L. R., & De Bourdeaudhuij, I. M. M. (2006). Increasing children's physical activity levels during recess periods in elementary schools: the effects of providing game equipment. Eur J Public Health, 16(4), 415-419.

Vincent, S. D., & Sidman, C. L. (2003). Determining measurement error in digital pedometers. Meas Phys Educ Exerc Sci, 7, 19-24.

Willenberg, L. J., Ashbolt, R., Holland, D., Gibbs, L., MacDougall, C., Garrard, J., & Waters, E. (2010). Increasing school playground physical activity: A mixed methods study combining environmental measures and children's perspectives. J Sci Med Sport, 13, 210–216.

World Health Organization (2010). Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.


Statistics RUA



How to Cite

López-Fernández, I., Molina-Jodar, M., Garrido-González, F. J., Pascual-Martos, C. A., Chinchilla, J. L., & Carnero, E. A. (2017). Promoting physical activity at the school playground: A quasi-experimental intervention study. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 11(2), 319–328.



Physical Education / Children & Exercise