Introduction This study aimed to determine current levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior in middle school students on the basis of grade, sex, student attitudes toward physical education, and residence location. Methods In 2013, a cross-sectional study of 1793 students aged 12 to 15 years was conducted across eight middle schools in Beijing, China. Four schools were selected from an urban district and another four schools were from a suburban district. Physical activity and sedentary behavior data were collected using the commonly used school-based Chinese version of the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Results The mean age of sampled students was 13.3±1.0 years; 51.5%were boys. Approximately 76.6% of students reported having three 45-minute physical education classes every week. A total of 35.6%students spent ≥1 h/day performing moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during school, and 34.9% spent ≥1 h/day in MVPA outside school time. Approximately half (49.7%) of the students engaged in reading, writing, or drawing for ≥2 h/day, and 42.9% reported screen time for ≥2 h/day. Although boys spent more time engaged in physical activity than girls did, they also spent more time exhibiting sedentary behavior. Each 10-unit increase in attitudes toward physical education was associated with an increased odds of 1.15 (95%CI: 1.09-1.20) for spending more than 1 h/day on MVPA. Students in suburban schools reported engaging in physical activity less when compared with those in urban schools. Conclusion The majority of our students did not meet the current physical activity recommendations, and about half of the students spent excessive time engaging in sedentary behaviors. Findings from this study highlight a positive association between student attitudes toward physical education and physical activity. Studies are needed to further explore the role of student attitudes toward physical education in promoting physical activity among Chinese students.
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