Children’s physical activity levels in a sports-oriented summer day camp


  • Elizabeth Y. Barnett Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, United States
  • Paul M. Ridker Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, United States
  • Cassandra A. Okechukwu Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, United States
  • Jessica L. Barrett Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, United States
  • Steven L. Gortmaker Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, United States



Exercise, Child, Summer camp, Tennis, Accelerometer


Physical activity engagement during childhood helps create lifelong patterns of health and fitness. Summer camps are an important domain of influence for health promotion, with over 14 million American children attending annually. No known studies have evaluated the impact of sports-focused camps on activity levels. We test the hypothesis that children attending a sports camp (STEC) spend more time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) compared to children attending general day camps. A repeated measures design used waist-worn accelerometers to measure MVPA and vigorous physical activity (VPA) among children at a sports camp in Dorchester, Massachusetts (n = 40). We compared these data with data from a similar study at five Boston-area non-sports-focused summer day camps (BSC) (n = 142), resulting in 764 total person-days analyzed. Multivariable linear regression models estimated differences in percent of accelerometer-monitored time spent in physical activity, adjusting for potential confounders and clustering of observations. STEC children spent a higher percentage of time in MVPA and VPA compared to BSC children (MVPA: 11.4%, p = .005; VPA: 2.4%, p  = .023). These findings support the hypothesis that sports-focused camps can provide children with significantly more activity than general day camps. STEC children also spend a higher percent of time in MVPA than do children in a school-day national sample (NHANES). This is the first study to document that a sports-oriented camp generates more physical activity compared to a general summer camp. Our findings are relevant for public health efforts to promote physical activity and prevent chronic disease. 


Donald and Sue Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, BWH Training Program in the Epidemiology of CVD (National Institute of Health T-32 Training Grant HL07575), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant U48DP001946)


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How to Cite

Barnett, E. Y., Ridker, P. M., Okechukwu, C. A., Barrett, J. L., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2018). Children’s physical activity levels in a sports-oriented summer day camp. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 13(2), 430–442.



Physical Education / Children & Exercise