Physical Activity and Sedentary Time among Children with Disabilities at School

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Abstract

Purposes

Physical activity (PA) is important for the development of children with disabilities, but rarely does this population meet the recommended standards. Schools are salient locations for PA, but little is known about how specific school settings affect the PA of children with diverse disabilities. We assessed PA and sedentary time (ST) of children with disabilities in three school settings (physical education, recess, lunchtime).

Methods

Participants included 259 children from 13 Hong Kong special schools for five primary disabilities: visual impairments, hearing impairments, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and social development problems. Children wore accelerometers at school for 3 d, and the time (min and %) they engaged in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and ST was extracted for each school setting by sex. Analyses included multiple linear mixed models to determine differences in MVPA and ST by sex across disability types, adjusting for body mass index, grade level, and duration in each setting.

Results

Overall, children spent 70% of their day at school being sedentary and accrued little MVPA (mean, 17 ± 4.2 min daily). Children with intellectual disabilities (severe) had especially low levels of MVPA. All three settings contributed significantly to both MVPA and ST, with recess contributing more to MVPA than physical education or lunchtime.

Conclusions

This is the first study to examine MVPA and ST among different disability types at school using accelerometry. Given the low levels of PA, this population should receive priority in the development of cost-effective interventions to improve their PA opportunities.

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