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Background: Few studies have evaluated teacher- and school-level characteristics associated with implementation of recommended physical activity (PA) promoting practices. The purpose of this study is to examine associations between teachers’ PA practices and: [1] teacher-level factors, including their own PA, and [2] school-level factors.

Methods: This cross-sectional study examined time spent daily in light PA (LPA) and moderate-vigorous PA (MVPA) in association with 7 teacher PA practices among 288 classroom/special area teachers and teaching assistants in 20 urban, suburban and rural schools (recruited through a school wellness trial) in 4 districts. LPA and MVPA was assessed using 24-h ankle accelerometry (up to seven consecutive days). A sum score for teacher PA practices was assessed via survey (7 items; sum score range: 7–35; Cronbach’s alpha = 0.73; higher scores indicate more PA promoting practices). Teacher-level factors included gender, race, self-reported height/weight, years teaching, and education. School-level factors included school type, free-and-reduced-price meal eligibility, student racial/ethnic composition, and urbanicity. Analyses included multilevel regression models, accounting for clustering within schools and adjusting for demographic covariates and school district.

Results: Teachers were 91% female, 63% elementary, 60% white, mean age 43.2 years (SD = 11.3), and 41% obese). Teachers wore accelerometers an average of 5.8 days, spent 399.6 min in LPA (SD = 85.0) per day, 24.1 min in MVPA (SD = 14.4) per day, and the mean teacher PA practices sum score was 22.4 (SD = 5.0). Every 15-min increase in MVPA was related to an increase in teacher PA practices sum score (coeff =1.07; SE = 0.28; p < 0.001). Female gender (versus males; coeff = − 1.95; SE = 0.92, p = 0.034), an obese weight status (versus non-obese; coeff = − 1.38; SE = 0.54, p = 0.010), and teaching in a middle school (versus elementary; coeff = − 3.86; SE = 0.54, p < 0.001) were associated with lower teacher PA practices scores. LPA was not associated with teacher PA promoting practices.

Conclusions: Teachers with higher MVPA, but not higher LPA, and those without obesity were more likely to implement PA promoting practices that could positively impact their students’ PA. Similar to prior studies, these practices were more commonly implemented in elementary schools and by male teachers. Future studies in schools should explore whether improvement of teacher health behaviors subsequently impacts student health behaviors.

Trial registration: Clinical Trials, NCT03432715; Registered on 02/2/2018.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.