A cross sectional examination of the associations between physical activity and school facilities among youth in the COMPASS study (Year 2)
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Objective: This study examined the prevalence of physical activity of secondary students in Ontario and Alberta, Canada. This study also examined between school variability in physical activity levels, and identified school and student level characteristics that are associated with physical activity. Methods: This cross sectional study used the COMPASS Year 2 data. This data contained information on 79 secondary schools in Ontario and 10 in Alberta, as well as student level information on 45,298 grade 9 to 12 students who attend those schools. Multilevel modeling was used to examine associations between physical activity and school and student level characteristics. Physical activity is measured by three outcome measures: achieving 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily, achieving the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology’s (CSEP) guideline for youth physical activity (achieving 60 minutes of MVPA daily as well as achieving at least 3 days per week of vigorous physical activity and resistance training), and as a continuous measure of energy expenditure (kilocalories/kilogram/day (KKD)). Results: The prevalence of physical activity in the Year 2 COMPASS study was, 49.3% achieving 60 minutes of MVPA and 31.0% meeting the CSEP guidelines. The mean energy expenditure (KKD) value for the entire sample was 9.6 kcal/kg/day (±7.0). Low between-school variability was identified (0.8% to 1.2%) and few school level characteristics were associated with students’ physical activity. Students attending public schools, compared to private schools were more likely to achieve the MVPA recommendation and the accessibility score of schools was negatively associated with students achieving the CSEP guidelines. No school level characteristics were significant for KKD when taking into account student level factors. Student level factors were identified as significant for all three physical activity variables. Those who were least likely to achieve all measures of physical activity were females, grade 12 students, students with $0 weekly income, students who were not current binge drinkers and those who did not eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables and students who did not report their height or weight resulting in a missing body mass index. Conclusions: Insufficient amount of youth are meeting guidelines for physical activity and are therefore not receiving the health benefits associated with physical activity. The current study identified low variability between schools for physical activity, which suggests that future studies should focus on student level characteristics and potentially examine specific sub-groups. The school environment may be important to certain sub-groups or when physical activity is measured using objective measures, so future research should focus on those areas. Although the current study did not find large amounts of between school variability in physical activity, schools may still be an important place to promote physical activity.