Investigating longitudinal context-specific physical activity patterns in transition from primary to secondary school using accelerometers, GPS, and GIS

Teun Remmers*, Dave Van Kann, Stef Kremers, Dick Ettema, Sanne de Vries, Steven Vos, Carel Thijs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Web of Science)


Introduction Previous longitudinal studies indicate that physical activity (PA) significantly declines from primary-to secondary school, and report both changes in individual and environmental determinants of PA. In order to understand this transition and to prevent this negative trend, it is important to gather contextually rich data on possible mechanisms that drive this decline. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate changes of PA patterns in transition between primary and secondary school, and to add domain-specific insights of how, where, and when these changes occur. Methods In total, 175 children participated in a 7-day accelerometer- and Global Positioning System (GPS) protocol at their last year of primary and their first year of secondary school. GPS data-points were overlaid with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data using ArcGIS 10.1 software. Based on the GPS locations of individual data-points, we identified child's PA at home, school, local sports grounds, shopping centers, and other locations. Also, trips in active and passive transport were identified according to previously validated GPS speed-algorithms. Longitudinal multi-level linear mixed models were fitted adjusting for age, gender, meteorological circumstances, and the nested structure of days within children and children within schools. Outcome measures were minutes spent in light PA and moderate-to-vigorous PA, specified for the time-segments before school, during school, after school and weekend days. Results Total PA significantly declined from primary to secondary school. Although transport-related PA increased before- and during school, decreases were found for especially afterschool time spent at sports grounds and transport-related PA during weekends. Conclusions This is the first study that demonstrated longitudinal changes of context- and domain-specific PA patterns in transition between primary and secondary school, based on device-assessed PA. Given the importance of this transition-period for the development of long-term PA patterns, results from this study warrant the development of evidence-based PA programs in this transition period, while acknowledging the integrative role of schools, parents, and afterschool sports providers. More specifically, the results underline the need to increase children's PA levels in primary schools, promote afterschool PA at secondary schools, and to prevent the drop-out in sports participation at secondary schools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number66
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020


  • Context
  • Child
  • Environment
  • Domain
  • Weekday
  • Weekend
  • After school
  • Transport
  • Time segment
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Sports
  • Geographic
  • TIME

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