The effect of multicolor playground markings on children's physical activity level during recess

Preventive Medicine
Volume 41, Issues 5-6, November-December 2005, Pages 828-833

Authors/Researchers Gareth Stratton Ph.D. and Elaine Mullanb
REACH Group, Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, 15–21 Webster St., Liverpool L3 2ET, UK


British children do not meet daily physical activity recommendations, and as yet no sustainable intervention has been reported to address their sedentary lifestyle. The purpose of this investigation was twofold: First, to examine whether painting playgrounds with multicolored markings would increase the percent of recess time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and vigorous physical activity (VPA) in girls and boys and second to quantify the contribution recess makes to national recommendations for young people's physical activity.

MVPA and vigorous physical activity (VPA) were measured using short wave heart rate telemetry. Physical activity levels were compared before and after playgrounds were painted in 4 intervention schools and compared to 4 matched schools with unmarked playgrounds. Schools were situated in areas of deprivation. Ninety-nine children completed the study.

A significant interaction (group × time) was evident for MVPA and VPA. Time spent in MVPA and VPA increased significantly in intervention schools as a result of playground painting. Boys were more active than girls, and activity decreased with age, but neither difference reached significance.

Multicolor playground markings can be a low-cost method of increasing children's daily physical activity levels in the short term. If these increases were sustained, then school playgrounds with multicolor markings would make a valuable contribution to physical activity recommendations for young people.