Lessons Learned from Tobacco Control: A Multilevel Analysis of School Characteristics and Adolescent Physical Activity
Wong Ishibashi, Suzy-Lai
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Background: The high prevalence of physical inactivity among children and adolescents (youth) and the associated negative health consequences make it critical to increase physical activity levels. Social-ecological models suggest that the school environment may influence youth health behaviour. However, few studies have examined the school environment in relation to youth physical activity. Purpose: To 1) examine between-school variability in student physical activity, 2) identify school characteristics that account for between-school variability in student physical activity, and 3) examine the association between senior student participation rates in school physical activities and junior student physical activity. Methods: The study consisted of secondary data analysis of the School Health Action, Planning and Evaluation System (SHAPES) Ontario project, which collected self-report data from 69,511 students in 76 secondary schools from seven public health unit districts in Ontario. Multilevel modeling was used to examine between-school variability in student physical activity, as well as school characteristics associated with physical activity. Results: There was significant between-school variability in student physical activity, and the relationship between physical activity and age and gender, respectively. School rates of physical education participation were associated with student physical activity levels. Senior student participation in other physical activities at school, such as playing outside, was associated with junior student physical activity levels. Conclusions: These findings support the social-ecological notion that the school environment can influence adolescent physical activity behaviour. A better understanding of the relationship between the school environment and physical activity will assist in the development of effective school-based policies, programs and interventions to increase physical activity.