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Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008 Sep 29;5:47. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-5-47.

Physical environmental characteristics and individual interests as correlates of physical activity in Norwegian secondary schools: the health behaviour in school-aged children study.

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  • 1Research Centre for Health Promotion, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, Christiesgt, 13, N-5020, Bergen, Norway.



The school has been identified as a key arena for physical activity promotion for young people. Effective change of physical activity behaviour requires identification of consistent and modifiable correlates. The study explores students' interests in school physical activity and facilities in the school environment and examines their associations with students' participation in physical activity during recess and their cross-level interaction effect.


This cross-sectional study was based on a national representative sample of Norwegian secondary schools and grade 8 students who participated in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) 2005/06 study. The final sample comprised 68 schools and 1347 students. Physical environment characteristics were assessed through questionnaires completed by the principals, and students' physical activity and interests in physical activity were assessed through student self-completion questionnaires.


Most students were interested in more opportunities for physical activity in school. Multilevel logistic regression models demonstrated that students attending schools with many facilities had 4.49 times (95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 1.93-10.44) higher odds of being physically active compared to students in schools with fewer facilities when adjusting for socio-economic status, sex and interests in school physical activity. Also open fields (Odds Ratio (OR) = 4.31, 95% CI = 1.65-11.28), outdoor obstacle course (OR = 1.78, 95% CI = 1.32-2.40), playground equipment (OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.24-2.42) and room with cardio and weightlifting equipment (OR = 1.58, 95%CI = 1.18-2.10) were associated with increased participation in physical activity. Both students' overall interests and the physical facilitation of the school environment significantly contributed to the prediction of recess physical activity. The interaction term demonstrated that students' interests might moderate the effect of facilities on recess physical activity.


The findings support the use of an ecological approach and multilevel analyses in the investigation of correlates of physical activity that allows for a broader understanding of the influence of and interaction between factors at multiple levels on physical activity behaviour. In the promotion of physical activity in lower secondary schools, the study suggests that programmes should include a focus on environmental facilitation and incorporate strategies to increase students' interests for school physical activity.

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