WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
Changing from primary to secondary school highlights opportunities for school environment interventions aiming to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour: a longitudinal cohort study
- Published on 2015
Background: There is little empirical evidence of the impact of transition from primary to secondary school on obesity-related risk behaviour. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of a change of school system on physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviour in pre-early adolescents.
Methods: Fifteen schools in Victoria, Australia were recruited at random from the bottom two strata of a five level socio-economic scale. In nine schools, students in year 6 primary school transitioned to a different school for year 7 secondary school, while in six schools (combined primary-secondary), students remained in the same school environment from year 6 to year 7. Time 1 (T1) measures were collected from students (N=245) in year 6 (age 11-13). Time 2 (T2) data were collected from 243 (99%) of the original student cohort when in year 7.
PA and sedentary behaviour data were collected objectively (via ActiGraph accelerometer) and subjectively (via child self-report recall questionnaire). School environment data were collected via school staff survey. Change of behaviour analyses were conducted longitudinally i) for all students and ii) by change/no change of school. Mixed model regression analysis tested for behavioural interaction effects of changing/not changing school.
Results: Sixty-three percent (N=152) changed schools from T1 to T2. Across all students we observed declines in average daily moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (−4 min) and light PA (−23 min), and increases in average daily sedentary behaviour (16 min), weekday leisure screen time (17 min) and weekday homework screen time (25 min), all P<0.05. Compared to students who remained in the same school environment, students who changed school reported a greater reduction in PA intensity at recess and lunch, less likelihood to cycle to/from school, greater increase in weekday (41 mins) and weekend (45 mins) leisure screen time (P<0.05) and greater encouragement to participate in sport. School staff surveys identified that sport participation encouragement was greater in primary and combined primary-secondary than secondary schools (P<0.05).
Conclusion: Transitioning from primary to secondary school negatively impacts on children’s PA and sedentary behaviour, and has further compounding effects on behaviour type by changing school environments.