Physical activity vs. sedentary time: independent associations with adiposity in children


Address for correspondence: Dr J.-P. Chaput, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, 401 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1H 8L1. E-mail:



To investigate the independent associations between objectively measured levels of movement intensity (i.e. time spent sedentary and at light, moderate and vigorous intensities) and indicators of adiposity in a cohort of Canadian children.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in 550 Caucasian children aged 8–10 years with at least one obese biological parent. Physical activity and sedentary time (accelerometer over 7 d) and indicators of adiposity (% body fat measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and waist-to-height ratio) were objectively measured. We examined the associations between levels of movement intensity and adiposity in multi-level linear regression models adjusted for age, sex, sleep duration, energy intake, sexual maturation, parental socioeconomic status and parental body mass index.


Objectively measured sedentary time was not associated with adiposity indicators in this cohort (unadjusted and adjusted models). However, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was inversely associated with % body fat (adj. β = −0.047; P = 0.02) and waist-to-height ratio (adj. β = −0.071; P < 0.001), independent of sedentary time and other covariates. Additionally, we observed that children who did not accumulate ≥60 min d−1 of MVPA were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who met the recommendation (odds ratio [OR] 2.22, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.45–3.38). In contrast, there was no difference in the likelihood of being categorized as overweight or obese between those who met the recommendation of ≤2 h d−1 of screen time and those who did not meet this recommendation (OR 1.27, 95% CI 0.75–2.01).


The present study suggests that MVPA is independently associated with adiposity indices in this sample of children while sedentary time is not. Future studies should examine the best approach to increase MVPA in children and youth.