Record: Douglas E. Long, Lisa M. Gaetke, Stephen D. Perry, Mark G. Abel, and Jody L. Clasey, “The Assessment of Physical Activity and Nutrition in Home Schooled versus Public Schooled Children” in Pediatric Exercise Science 22, no. 1 (February 2010): 44-59. [Abstract Here]
Summary: Previously I reviewed a recent article by Cardel et al. that found a sample of Alabama homeschoolers to consume on average 120 fewer calories per day than a comparable group of public schoolers. That article cited this 2010 piece, which I had previously failed to notice.
In this 2010 article a similar study was conducted to compare the food intake and amount of exercise between comparable groups of home and public schooled children. The authors recruited both home and public schooled children from Kentucky in 2007, collecting data from a total of 68 home and 45 public schooled children. At the end of the study 36 demographically matched pairs were created to eliminate confounding variables.
To gauge physical activity levels all subjects had to wear a New Lifestyles-1000 monitor for seven consecutive days. Subjects also recorded all dietary intake for seven consecutive days. Children and parents were given a health questionnaire as well.
After compiling the results, the researchers found that public schooled children did significantly more exercise during the week because of recess and physical education classes at school, but both groups did the same amount during the weekends. School-based activities account completely for the 24% more exercise public schoolers got.
Food intake was about the same for both groups, but the sample of public schooled children for whatever reason ate far less school food than is typical, on average eating only 2.4 meals a week prepared by the school.
The questionnaire revealed that homeschoolers did more chores and watched less television before 4 PM on weekends. Otherwise the groups spent their time very similarly.
After laying out the data the authors conclude only that schools should maintain or expand their current opportunities for physical exercise rather than fall into the current trend of reducing such offerings.
Appraisal: Putting this article together with the Cardel article allows us to tentatively suggest that public schoolers in schools that still have robust phyisical education and recess opportunities are getting more exercise than many homeschoolers, but at the same time these homeschoolers are consuming slightly fewer calories than public schooled children who eat the lunches prepared by the schools and drink the flavored milks school children tend to drink. What does that mean for the relative health of the two groups? It seems from these studies at least that there’s not a whole lot of difference, though I suppose the best practices for each setting would be for homeschoolers to work harder to structure daily physical activity into their routines and for public schoolers to either pack their lunch or for schools to improve the nutrition profile of prepared meals.
Milton Gaither, Messiah College