Children's physical activity and sedentary behaviour in before school care: An observational study

Publication Name

Preventive Medicine


Objective: In Australia, less than one quarter of children aged 5–12 years meet national physical activity (PA) guidelines. Before school care operates as part of Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) services and provide opportunities for children to meet their daily PA recommendations. The aim of this study was to explore factors associated with children meeting 15 min of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) while attending before school care. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 25 services in New South Wales, Australia. Each service was visited twice between March and June 2021. Staff behaviours and PA type and context were captured using staff interviews and the validated System for Observing Staff Promotion of Physical Activity and Nutrition (SOSPAN) time sampling tool. Child PA data were collected using Actigraph accelerometers and associations between program practices and child MVPA analysed. Results: PA data were analysed for 654 children who spent an average of 39.2% (±17.6) of their time sedentary; 45.4% (±11.4) in light PA; and 14.9% (±11.7) in MVPA. Only 17% of children (n = 112) reached ≥15 min MVPA, with boys more likely to achieve this. Children were more likely to meet this recommendation in services where staff promoted and engaged in PA; PA equipment was available; children were observed in child-led free play; and a written PA policy existed. Conclusions: Before school care should be supported to improve physical activity promotion practices by offering staff professional development and guidance on PA policy development and implementation practices.

Open Access Status

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

NSW Ministry of Health



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