Contribution of timetabled physical education to total physical activity in primary school children: cross sectional study

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 11 September 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:592
  1. Katie M Mallam, paediatric research fellow1,
  2. Brad S Metcalf, statistician1,
  3. Joanne Kirkby, assistant statistician1,
  4. Linda D Voss, senior research fellow1,
  5. Terence J Wilkin, professor of medicine (
  1. 1Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Peninsula Medical School, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth PL6 8DH
  1. Correspondence to: T J Wilkin
  • Accepted 17 April 2003


A recent survey of children at primary schools in England found a marked decline in timetabled physical education between 1994 and 1999.1 Sport England expressed concern about the impact of competing priorities, such as numeracy and literacy, on curricular physical education and concluded that children from poorer backgrounds would be worst affected. We used accelerometers to measure the impact of timetabled physical education at school on overall physical activity in children.

Participants, methods, and results

We monitored physical activity during waking hours for seven days using accelerometers (Manufacturing Technology, Fort Walton Beach, FL2) in 215 children (120 boys and 95 girls aged 7.0-10.5 (mean 9.0) years) from three schools with different sporting facilities and opportunity for physical education in the curriculum. School 1, a private preparatory school with some boarding pupils, had extensive facilities and 9.0 hours a week of physical education in the curriculum. School 2, a village school awarded Activemark gold status …

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