BACKGROUND: Previous research indicates the start of primary school (4-5-year-old) as an essential period for the development of children's physical activity (PA) patterns, as from this point, the age-related decline of PA is most often observed. During this period, young children are exposed to a wider variety of environmental- and social contexts and therefore their PA is influenced by more diverse factors. However, in order to understand children's daily PA patterns and identify relevant opportunities for PA promotion, it is important to further unravel in which (social) contexts throughout the day, PA of young children takes place.

METHODS: We included a cross-national sample of 21 primary schools from the Startvaardig study. In total, 248 children provided valid accelerometer and global positioning (GPS) data. Geospatial analyses were conducted to quantify PA in (social) environments based on their school and home. Transport-related PA was evaluated using GPS speed-algorithms. PA was analysed at different environments, time-periods and for week- and weekend days separately.

RESULTS: Children accumulated an average of 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA), both during week- and weekend days. Schools contributed to approximately half of daily MVPA during weekdays. During weekends, environments within 100 m from home were important, as well as locations outside the home-school neighbourhood. Pedestrian trips contributed to almost half of the daily MVPA.

CONCLUSIONS: We identified several social contexts relevant for children's daily MVPA. Schools have the potential to significantly contribute to young children's PA patterns and are therefore encouraged to systematically evaluate and implement parts of the school-system that stimulate PA and potentially also learning processes. Pedestrian trips also have substantial contribution to daily MVPA of young children, which highlights the importance of daily active transport in school- and parental routines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2024


  • humans
  • exercise
  • preschool children
  • male
  • female
  • schools
  • accelerometers
  • geographic information systems
  • time factors
  • Italy
  • cross-sectional studies
  • physiology
  • epidemiology


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