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Can J Public Health. 2010 Nov-Dec;101(6):495-9.

A multilevel examination of school and student characteristics associated with moderate and high levels of physical activity among elementary school students (Ontario, Canada).

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  • 1Department of Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON.



Schools represent an important environment for physical activity (PA) promotion among youth. Schools can promote PA through policies and programs but our understanding of how these school characteristics associate with student PA levels is largely unknown. Developing this understanding is critical for implementing new prevention interventions. The aim of this study was to identify the school- and student-related characteristics associated with moderate and high levels of PA in a sample of Ontario elementary schools.


Using multi-level logistic regression analyses, we explored the school- and student-level characteristics associated with being moderately and highly active using data collected from administrators and from students in grades 5 to 8 at 30 elementary schools in Ontario. Students' PA levels, sex, grade, and the number of physical education classes per week were linked to school environment data--specifically, a school's chosen implementation model for daily physical activity and whether it offers intramural and interschool PA programming.


Findings indicate that there was significant between-school variation for being moderately and highly active. Students were less likely to be moderately or highly active if they attended a school offering interschool PA programming. An important student characteristic positively associated with student PA levels included participating in at least two physical education classes per week.


The residual differences in PA by school suggest that school-level characteristics facilitate higher levels of student PA beyond individual-level factors. Although most variation in student PA lies between students within schools, there is sufficient between-school variation to be of interest to practitioners and policy-makers.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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