Physical activity patterns across time-segmented youth sport flag football practice

Chelsey R. Schlechter, Justin M. Guagliano, Richard R. Rosenkranz, George A. Milliken, David A. Dzewaltowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Background: Youth sport (YS) reaches a large number of children world-wide and contributes substantially to children's daily physical activity (PA), yet less than half of YS time has been shown to be spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Physical activity during practice is likely to vary depending on practice structure that changes across YS time, therefore the purpose of this study was 1) to describe the type and frequency of segments of time, defined by contextual characteristics of practice structure, during YS practices and 2) determine the influence of these segments on PA. Methods: Research assistants video-recorded the full duration of 28 practices from 14 boys' flag football teams (2 practices/team) while children concurrently (N = 111, aged 5-11 years, mean 7.9 ± 1.2 years) wore ActiGraph GT1M accelerometers to measure PA. Observers divided videos of each practice into continuous context time segments (N = 204; mean-segments-per-practice = 7.3, SD = 2.5) using start/stop points defined by change in context characteristics, and assigned a value for task (e.g., management, gameplay, etc.), member arrangement (e.g., small group, whole group, etc.), and setting demand (i.e., fosters participation, fosters exclusion). Segments were then paired with accelerometer data. Data were analyzed using a multilevel model with segment as unit of analysis. Results: Whole practices averaged 34 ± 2.4% of time spent in MVPA. Free-play (51.5 ± 5.5%), gameplay (53.6 ± 3.7%), and warm-up (53.9 ± 3.6%) segments had greater percentage of time (%time) in MVPA compared to fitness (36.8 ± 4.4%) segments (p ≤.01). Greater %time was spent in MVPA during free-play segments compared to scrimmage (30.2 ± 4.6%), strategy (30.6 ± 3.2%), and sport-skill (31.6 ± 3.1%) segments (p ≤.01), and in segments that fostered participation (36.1 ± 2.7%) than segments that fostered exclusion (29.1 ± 3.0%; p ≤.01). Significantly greater %time was spent in low-energy stationary behavior in fitness (15.7 ± 3.4%) than gameplay (4.0 ± 2.9%) segments (p ≤.01), and in sport-skill (17.6 ± 2.2%) than free-play (8.2 ± 4.2%), gameplay, and warm-up (10.6 ± 2.6%) segments (p <.05). Conclusions: The %time spent in low-energy stationary behavior and in MVPA differed by characteristics of task and setting demand of the segment. Restructuring the routine of YS practice to include segments conducive to MVPA could increase %time spent in MVPA during practice. As YS reaches a large number of children worldwide, increasing PA during YS has the potential to create a public health impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number226
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 8 2018


  • Direct observation
  • Lesson context
  • Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
  • Organized sport
  • Video observation
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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