Volmot T. et al.
EQOL (2009) 56-62
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY DROP AFTER LONG SUMMER
HOLIDAYS IN 6- TO 8-YEAR-OLD CHILDREN.
Tadeja Volmut, Petra Dolenc, and Boštjan Šimunič
Institute for Kinesiology Research, Science and Research Centre of Koper, University of Primorska,
Koper, and Faculty of Education, University of Primorska, Koper, Slovenia
Abstract
The objective of the study was to examine long summer vacation (LSV) effect on physical activity (PA)
in
68 children from three Slovenian cities. PA was assessed over five consecutive days using
accelerometer in 6- to 8-year-old children (N = 68; 35 girls and 33 boys, mean age 7.0 ± 0.8 years). PA
was assessed on two occasions, before and after LSV and showed clear Gaussian distribution model. PA
dropped after LSV for boys (9.6%, P = 0.004) and girls (9%, P = 0.014). Furthermore, PA intensity
changed significantly after LSV. In boys inactivity increased after LSV from 69% to 72.2% (P = 0.009)
and in girls from 71.7% to 74.2% (P = 0.031), while light PA decreased from 26.9% to 24% (P = 0.005)
in boys and from 24.6% to 22.5% (P = 0.035) in girls. In 27% of boys and in just 13% of girls the amount
of physical activity in June also determined the amount of physical activity in September. Furthermore,
we found a significant drop in physical activity only in boys (P = 0.002) and girls (P < 0.001) with higher
initial
(June 2007) values. In conclusion we could state that there is a clear negative effect of long
summer vacation on physical activity habits and needs further investigations for clear explanation.
Keywords: school children, intensity of physical activity, gender, accelerometer
Introduction
Regular physical activity in different forms is vital for child’s development, strengthening and protection
of health, keeping an adequate level of fitness and formation of behavioural patterns that ensure regular
physical/sport activity throughout all life stages (Baranowski et al., 1992; Malina, 1996). The period of
childhood is considered by many as vital in the formation of habits for a life-long physical/sport activity
(Simons-Morton, Parcel, O'Hara, Blair & Pate, 1988; Kohl & Hobbs, 1998). Therefore, one of the most
important objectives of physical activity in childhood is primarily adaptation to this life style that is
supposed to continue into later stages of life, for such behaviour has several positive effects on human
health (Sallis et al., 1999; Cavill, Biddle & Sallis, 2001).
Long summer holidays are very important for a child’s comprehensive development and
preparation for the school year, for during this period children are less burdened by school work and
consequently have more time to spend on various free-time activities. Since during the summer holidays
there are not as many organized free-time physical/sport activities as during the school year, children tend
to spend more time sitting in front of the TV sets and computer monitors (Jurak et al., 2002). So far in
Slovenia no investigation has been made into the immediate correlation between physical/sport behaviour
during the school year and that during the summer holidays. According to Strel et al. (1993) and Jurak,
Kovač and Strel (2001), the tendency of spending the summer holidays passively has increased in 7- to
12-year-old children. Observations have been made on the basis of subjective assessments of the methods
of investigating physical activity (Baranowski, Thompson, DuRant, Baranowski & Puhl, 1993) as well as
subjective measurements (Kristensen et al., 2007; Riddoch et al.,2007; Volmut, Dolenc, Šetina, Pišot, and
Šimunič, 2008a, 2008b) indicating that in comparison with spring the level of activity in autumn is
significantly lower. It has also been found that boys are physically more active than girls (Trost et al.,
2002; Riddoch, et al., 2007; Volmut et al., 2008a) and that the duration and intensity of physical/sport
activity decreases with a child’s age (Trost et al., 2002; Šetina et al., 2007). We have, however, found no
contribution comparing the influence of summer holidays on children with different physical/sport habits.
56
Volmot T. et al.
EQOL (2009) 56-62
The aim of our research was to determine the quantity and intensity of physical/sport activity in
younger primary school children before and after the long summer holidays using accelerometers. We
were further interested in the way physical activity differs in girls and boys with different physical/sport
habits.
Methods
CHILDREN: This study was conducted along with the target-research project of the Slovenian Research
Agency and the Slovenian Ministry of Education and Sport entitled “Children Amidst Influences of
Modern Lifestyle - Motor Abilities, Physical Characteristics and Health Status of Slovene Children” and
coordinated by the Institute of Kinesiology Research, Science and Research Centre of Koper, University
of Primorska. Sixty-eight randomly selected children were included in the study, aged 6 years (N = 21, 10
boys and 11 girls), 7 years (N = 23, 10 boys and 13 girls) and 8 years (N = 24, 13 boys and 11 girls). The
sample was equally distributed among three Slovenian cities (Koper, Ljubljana and Maribor). Parents and
children were pre-informed of the protocol and a written consent was obtained from parents.
ACCELEROMETRY: Accelerometers (Actilife, USA) were attached with elastic strap to the
right hip and worn for five consecutive days - three weekdays and two weekend days. Accelerometers
were not used during sleep, bathing and swimming. Children wore accelerometers on two occasions in
two time periods in June 2007 (before long summer holidays - Jun2007) and in September 2007 (after
long summer holidays - Sep2007).
DATA PROCESSING: The average data for one-minute epochs (in counts per minute - cpm)
were stored in the accelerometer memory chip and downloaded to computer after each 5-day experiment.
Furthermore, only data collected from 8 am until 8 pm were included in the analysis and filtered to
exclude data collected when accelerometer was not worn (bathing, swimming). Inclusion criteria for data
validation were: (i) at least four hours/day for valid day record, (ii) at least two valid weekdays and one
valid weekend day for valid experiment, (iii) both valid experiments in Jun2007 and Sep2007.
To divide the time series of counts per minute, we used cut-off points suggested by Puyau et al.
(2002) and associated energy expenditure (MET) estimated by equation of Freedson et al. (1998),
whereas sedentary physical activity was below 800 cpm (< 2 MET), 800 cpm < light < 3200 cpm (2 ≤
MET < 4), 3200 cpm < moderate < 8200 cpm (4 ≤ MET < 8), and vigorous above 8200 cpm (≥ 8 MET).
For the comparison of physical activity change after long summer holidays in children with
higher and children with lower physical activity amounts we divided children into two groups. Half of the
children (16 boys and 17 girls) with the lower amount of physical activity were labelled as children with
lower physical activity amount, while the rest of them as children with higher physical activity amount.
STATISTICS: All data were analysed using Microsoft Excel (Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft
Co., USA), filtered with Matlab 5.3 (Mathworks Co., USA) and statistically analysed with SPSS for
Windows 12.0 (SPSS Inc., USA). Average data are presented with standard error. Histograms are
presented with fitted Gaussian distributed model. Linear model is showing Pearson correlations of data
from before and after long summer vacations. For hypothesis testing, a repeated measures ANOVA was
used with the level of significance P < 0.05.
Results
From eighty-four children included in this study sixty-eight of them completed the test successfully.
Frequency distributions of the average physical activity results are presented in Figure 1. Gaussian trend
has been observed in all four graphs. Clear shift toward smaller values could be observed from both
vertical comparisons before and after long summer holidays.
Tables 1 and 2 summarize the results of the study for boys and girls, respectively. Physical
activity dropped after long summer holidays in boys for 9.6% (P = 0.004) and in girls for 9% (P = 0.014).
Furthermore, time spent in inactivity increased in boys for 3.2% (P = 0.009), while in girls for 2.5% (P =
0.031). Drop in light activity in boys for 2.9% (P = 0.005) and in girls for 2.5% (P = 0.035) compensated
physical activity intensity shift towards lower intensities. Time spent in moderate and vigorous physical
activity did not change significantly.
57
Volmot T. et al.
EQOL (2009) 56-62
A
B
C
D
Figure 1: Frequency distribution of the average physical activity for 33 boys (A, C) and for 35 girls
(B, D), before (A, B) and after (C, D) long summer holidays.
Table 1: Age, number, average physical activity (in counts per minute - cpm), percent time spent in
inactivity, light, moderate and vigorous activity for boys.
Boys
June 2007
September 2007
% change
P
Age / years
6 to 8 years
6 to 8 years
Number
33
33
Average physical activity / cpm
766 ± 26
693 ± 26
9.6
0.004**
Time spent in inactivity / %
69.0 ± 5.4
72.2 ± 5.2
3.2
0.009**
Time spent in light activity / %
26.9 ± 4.2
24.0 ± 4.0
-2.9
0.005**
Time spent in moderate activity / %
4.07 ± 2.3
3.72 ± 2.2
-0.35
0.446
Time spent in vigorous activity / %
0.03 ± 0.1
0.04 ± 0.1
0.01
0.721
** P < 0.01; Physical activity intensity levels estimated at < 2 MET, 2 ” MET < 4, 4 ” MET < 8 and • 8 MET, for
inactivity, light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity, respectively.
58
Volmot T. et al.
EQOL (2009) 56-62
Table 2. Age, number, average physical activity (in counts per minute - cpm), percent time spent in
inactivity, light, moderate and vigorous activity for girls.
Girls
June 2007
September 2007
% change
P
Age / years
6 to 8 years
6 to 8 years
Number
35
35
Average physical activity / cpm
699 ± 26
636 ± 26
-9.0
0.014*
Time spent in inactivity / %
71.7 ± 6.8
74.2 ± 5.6
2.5
0.031*
Time spent in light activity / %
24.6 ± 5.6
22.5 ± 4.7
-2.1
0.035*
Time spent in moderate activity / %
3.56 ± 1.9
3.14 ± 1.6
-0.42
0.219
Time spent in vigorous activity / %
0.11 ± 0.2
0.07 ± 0.1
-0.04
0.277
* P < 0.05; Physical activity intensity levels estimated at < 2 MET, 2 ” MET < 4, 4 ” MET < 8 and • 8 MET, for
inactivity, light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity, respectively.
From figure 2 it is evident that in 27% of boys and in just 13% of girls the amount of physical
activity in June also determined the amount of physical activity in September. Pearson correlations for
both boys (R = 0.52, P < 0.01) and girls (R = 0.36, P < 0.05) were significant. Furthermore, in Table 3 we
found a significant drop in physical activity only in boys (P = 0.002) and girls (P < 0.001) with higher
initial (June 2007) values.
1200
1200
y = 0.52x + 294
y = 0.41x + 353
R2 = 0.27
R2 = 0.13
900
900
600
600
300
300
400
800
1200
400
800
1200
Physical activity jun07
Physical activity jun07
in counts per minute
in counts per minute
Figure 2: Individual analysis of the physical activity shift for boys (left graph) and girls (right graph).
Table 3: Change of the average physical activity (PA) after long summer holidays for boys and girls with
lower and higher initial physical activity.
June 2007
September 2007
% change
P
Boys with lower PA
Average PA / cpm
643 ± 11
635 ± 28
-1.3
0.786
Boys with higher PA
Average PA / cpm
882 ± 29
748 ± 40
-15.2
0.002**
Girls with lower PA
Average PA / cpm
597 ± 21
623 ± 51
4.4
0.559
Girls with higher PA
Average PA / cpm
795 ± 27
649 ± 24
-18.4
0.000#
** P < 0.01; # P < 0.001;
59
Volmot T. et al.
EQOL (2009) 56-62
Discussion
Children should daily engage in at least 0.6% of high-intensity physical activity and 1.5% of moderate-
intensity physical activity to meet the recommendations suggested by Trost (2007). The results show that
younger primary school children engage in physical activity similar in intensity to that of the university
student population (Cradock et al., 2004), which means that their lifestyle is predominantly sedentary and
that they engage mainly in light-intensity physical/sport activities.
We have found that after long summer holidays, in comparison with the period before the
holidays, children are physically less active, which also coincides with findings of other researches
(Baranowski et al., 1993; Jurak, Kovač, Strel & Bednarik, 2003; Kristensen idr., 2007; Volmut, Dolenc,
Šetina, Pišot & Šimunič, 2008a,
2008b). Girls and boys spend most of their time inactively or in
physical/sport activities of low intensity both before and after the summer vacation. Similar results are
stated also in the study conducted by Riddoch et al. (2007), where it was found that 11-year-old children
spend most of their time in physical/sport activities of low intensity.
Furthermore, we found significant correlations between the amount of physical activity before
and after long summer holidays. Even more, children with higher initial physical activity before long
summer holidays lost a significant percentage (boys 15.2% and girls 18.4 %) after holidays, while others
did not.
It is difficult to correlate the results of researches conducted in Slovenia with our research
findings, for no comparison of results between physical/sport activity of children during the school year
and during summer holidays has been made with comparable measurement instruments. According to
previous studies conducted in Slovenia
(Strel et al.,
1993; Jurak, Kovač & Strel,
2001), where
questionnaires were used to study free time activities during the summer holidays, only 7,7% of primary
school children did not engage in any sport activity, while 33,2% of children engaged in sport activities
on daily bases. 12-year-olds were physically most active. Authors of similar studies (Jurak et al., 2002)
state certain possible explanations for the more passive way od spending free time during the summer
break highlighting the increasingly sedentary and lying position of spending free time, differences in
interests and motives for sport activity during the summer break and non-participation in organized sport
programmes.
The decrease in the quantity of physical/sport activity after long summer holidays can also be
explained by the increase of obligations related to school work upon re-entering the school environment
and curricular and extracurricular sport programmes not yet taking place at the beginning of the school
year. In September, the quantity of physical/sport activity can also decrease due to unfavourable weather
conditions, which was not specifically recorded in our measurement.
Physical/sport activity of younger primary school children is left predominantly to the interests
and motivation of children and encouragement of parents. Since during the summer holidays there are not
as many organized physical/sport activities taking place as during the school year and there are also no
physical education classes, children tend to be less physically active. This is precisely the reason why it
would be sensible to promote physical/sport activity through different sport events and workshops and to
enable the use of school sport surfaces and gyms also in summer. It would be useful to organize physical
activities that would follow modern sport trends and would therefore be appealing to children.
Conclusion
The objective measurement instrument such as accelerometer is a suitable tool for modelling various
measures to increase the level of physical/sport activity of children as well as other age groups. We
believe it would be necessary to perform additional in-depth investigation to examine the influence of the
seasons of the year on physical/sport activity while at the same time considering also other related
variables (e.g. the level of outdoor activity, weather conditions). Since the research sample was small and
geographically limited it would be reasonable to adequately enlarge the sample in future research and to
systematically monitor the influence of the seasons of the year on physical/sport activity of Slovenian
children using accelerometers.
60
Volmot T. et al.
EQOL (2009) 56-62
References
1.
Baranowski, T., Bouchard, C., Bar-Or, O., Bar-Or, O., Bricker, T., Heath, G., Kimm, S.Y., Malina,
R., Obarzanek, E., Pate, R., Strong, W.B., et al. (1992). Assessment, prevalence, and cardiovascular
benefits of physical activity and fitness in youth. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 24(6
Suppl), S237-47.
2.
Baranowski, T., Thompson, W. O., DuRant R.H., Baranowski, J., & Puhl, J. (1993). Observations on
physical activity in physical locations: age, gender, ethnicity, and month effects. Research Quarterly
for Exercise and Sport, 64 (2), 127-33.
3.
Cavill, N., Biddle, S., Sallis, J.F.
(2001). Health enhancing physical activity for young people:
Statement of the United Kingdom expert consensus conference. Pediatric Exercise Science, 13, 12-
25.
4.
Cradock, A. L., Wiecha, J. L., Peterson, K. E., Sobol, A. M., Colditz, G. A., & Gortmaker, S. L.
(2004). Youth Recall and TriTrac Accelerometer Estimates of Physical Activity Levels. Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(3), pp. 525-532.
5.
Jurak, G., Kovač, M., & Strel, J. (2001). Značilnosti izvajanja športnih programov med poletnimi
počitnicami. In B. Škof, in M. Kovač (Ed.), Zbornik referatov 14. strokovnega posveta Zveze društev
športnih pedagogov Slovenije. Uvajanje novosti pri šolski športni vzgoji. Ljubljana: Association of
Societies of Sports Teachers of Slovenia, 450-461.
6.
Jurak, G., Kovač, M., Strel, J., Majerič, M., Starc, G., Bednarik, J. et al. (2002). Nekatere značilnosti
preživljanja prostega časa osnovnošolcev med poletnimi počitnicami. In: Otrok v gibanju - zbornik
prispevkov (241-246). Ljubljana: Pedagoška fakulteta, Univerza v Ljubljani.
7.
Jurak, G., Kovač, M., Strel, J., & Bednarik, J. (2003). Gender differences of Slovenian children and
youth in spending summer holidays. [Electonic source]. Suomen liikuntalääketiede [Finnish sports
and exercise medicine]: The International XVII Puijo Symposium special issue "Physical Activity
and Health: Gender Differences Across the Lifespan. Retrieved October
10
2003, from:
http://ffp.uku.fi/sll/index.html
8.
Kohl, H.W., & Hobbs, K.E. (1998). Development of physical activity behaviors among children and
adolescents. Pediatrics, 101(3 Pt 2),549-54.
9.
Kristensen, P. L., Korsholm, L., Møller, N. C., Wedderkopp, N,, Andersen, L. B., & Froberg K.
(2007). Sources of Variation in Habitual Physical Activity of Children and Adolescents: The
European Youth Heart Study. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (e-publication
ahead of print, June 2007).
10. Malina, R.M. (1996). Tracking of physical activity and physical fitness across the lifespan. Research
Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 67(3 Suppl), pp. 48-57.
11. Riddoch, C.J., & Boreham, C.A. (1995). The health-related physical activity of children. Sports
Medicine, 19(2):86-102.
12. Riddoch, C. J., Mattocks, C., Deere, K., Saunders, J., Kirkby, J., Tilling, K. et al. (2007). Objective
measurement of levels and patterns of physical activity. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 92, 963-
969.
13. Strel, J., Novak, H., Pisanski, M., Mesarič, V., & Štihec, J. (1993). Psihosocialno in telesno stanje
osnovnošolskih učencev z vidika obremenjenosti s šolskim delom [Psychosocial and physical state of
primary school pupils from the point of view of school workload]. Ljubljana: faculty of Sport,
University of Ljubljana.
14. Sallis, J.F., McKenzie, T.L., Kolody, B., Lewis, M., Marshall, S., & Rosengard, P. (1999). Effects of
health-related physical education on academic achievement: Project SPARK. Research Quarterly for
Exercise and Sport, 70(2):127-34.
15. Simons-Morton, B.G., Parcel, G.S., O'Hara, N.M., Blair, S.N., & Pate, R.R. (1988). Health-related
physical fitness in childhood: status and recommendations. Annual Review of Public Health, 9, 403-
25.
61
Volmot T. et al.
EQOL (2009) 56-62
16. Šetina, T., Volmut, T., Pišot, R., Dolenc, P., Štemberger, V., Videmšek, M. et al. (2007). Measurment
of children’s physical activity - related to age and gender. = Merjenje Fizičke aktivnosti dece u
odnosu na godište I pol. In: Bala, Gustav (Ed.) Zbornik radova interdisciplinarne naučne konferencije
sa međunarodnim učešćem Antropološki status I fizička aktivnost dece, omladine I odraslih. Novi
Sad: Fakultet sporta I fizičkog vaspitanja, pp. 31-40.
17. Trost, S. G., Pate, R.R., Sallis, J. F., Freedson, P. S., Taylor, W. C., Dowda, M. et al. (2002). Age
and gender differences in objective measured physical activity in youth. Medicine & Science in
Sports & Exercise, 34(2), 350-355.
18. Trost, S. (2007). Measurment of Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents. American Journal of
Lifestyle Medicine, 34(2): pp. 350-355.
19. Volmut, T., Dolenc, P., Šetina, T., Pišot, R., & Šimunič, B. (2008a). Objektivno izmerjena gibalna
aktivnost deklic in dečkov pred in po poletnih počitnicah. In: ŠTEMBERGER, V. (Ed.), PIŠOT, R.
(Ed.), RUPRET, K. (Ed.). Gibalna, športna vzgoja v luči kakovostnega izobraževanja: zbornik
prispevkov
(str.
496-501). Koper: Univerza na Primorskem, Pedagoška fakulteta, Znanstveno
raziskovalno središče; Ljubljana: Univerza v Ljubljani, Pedagoška fakulteta.
20. Volmut, T., Dolenc, P., Šetina, T., Pišot, R., & Šimunič, B. (2008b). Objectively measured intensity
of physical activity in children before and after long summer vacations. In: BLAHUTKOVÁ, M. (Ed.).
Sport a kvalita života 2008: sbornik pĜispČvkĤ (pp. 171- 6). Brno: Masarykova univerzita, Fakulta
sportovních studií.
62