INTRODUCTION : Physical activity plays an integral role in the normal physical, mental, social and cognitive development of children.
One of the main reasons for overweight children in low- and middle-income countries like South Africa is inactivity. This study’s
aim was to describe the physical activity measured in boys and girls from section 21, quintile 5 pre-primary and primary schools
in a small rural South African town and to compare it with recommended international physical activity levels.
METHOD : Seventy-eight rural children, representing Caucasian and black African children, divided into three age groups, were
issued a piezoelectric pedometer for seven complete days. Pedometer data obtained were total steps, aerobic steps, aerobic
walking time, calories and distance. Steps per day were compared with international levels. Correlation statistics examined the
association between physical activity and adiposity.
RESULTS : Boys in the age groups 9–11 and 12–14 years are statistically more active than girls of the same age (p = 0.005 and
0.045 respectively). Although girls’ physical activity levels tend to decrease with age, their aerobic activity levels increase with
age. This group of rural children’s physical activity levels are far lower than the recommended international normative levels. No
correlation was found between physical activity and adiposity.
CONCLUSION : The pedometer data indicated that gender and age influence the activity of children. This group of rural children’s
physical activity is far less than international normative levels. Nine to 11-year-old boys are the most active boys, and girls of
12–14 years old are the most aerobic active girls in this study, therefore the authors concluded that, to increase physical activity,
the age group 9–11 may be the ideal age to focus on for gender-specific intervention programmes.