Is the Association Between the Built Environment at School and Students’ Physical Activity Moderated by the Social Environment?

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Button, Brenton
Physical Activity , School Environment , Adolescent Health
Surveillance data from 105 countries indicates that 80% of 13-15 year-olds do not meet the public health guideline of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day. This is problematic as a lack of physical activity in young people is associated with physical, mental, and social health problems. Schools are a place where children and adolescents spend a large amount of their time and where they have several opportunities to engage in physical activity. The built and social environment of the school can influence the physical activity levels of students. The school built environment consists of the facilities that can encourage physical activity such as gymnasia, fields, and fitness rooms. This thesis looked at two aspects of the social environment: 1) school policies, programs, and practices (PPP) for physical activity, and 2) school social capital. School PPP includes things like having intramural sports. School social capital is based on the relationships formed at school. The purpose of this thesis was to determine whether selected features of the school social environment (social capital, school PPP for physical activity) changes the relationship between the school built environment and physical activity among 11-15 year-old Canadians. Information on the school social environment, school built environment and school time physical activity was gathered using a national representative survey called the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey (HBSC). The HBSC consists of a survey completed by grade 6-10 students in their classroom and a second 10 minute long survey completed by the principal of the participating schools. Results of this thesis indicate that the school built environment and school social capital were positively associated with school time MVPA, while school PPP had a slight negative association. School PPP altered the relationship between the built environment and physical activity. Specifically, the strongest positive association was between the built environment and MVPA levels in schools with few school PPP. However, school social capital did not alter the relationship between the built environment and MVPA. The results of this thesis can be useful in creating new school physical activity interventions.
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