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Keywords:

  • Accelerometers;
  • cluster analysis;
  • European school-aged children

Summary

What is already known about this subject

  • Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity plays an important role in the prevention of childhood overweight and obesity.
  • Sedentary time has an impact on overweight and obesity in adults, independently from moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
  • High levels of self-reported sedentary time and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can co-exist in children.

What this study adds

  • Sedentary time and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity are both associated with overweight in 10- to 12-year-old girls.
  • For 10- to 12-year-old boys, it appears that merely moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is related to overweight, not sedentary time.
  • High levels of accelerometer-derived sedentary time and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can co-exist in 10- to 12-year-old children.

Background

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) plays an important role in childhood overweight prevention. Sedentary time appears to be independently associated with overweight, but most research has been done in adults.

Objective

The objective of this study were to identify subgroups of children based on their MVPA and sedentary time, and explore differences in body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and overweight prevalence between among these subgroups.

Methods

A sample of 766 10- to 12-year-old children (52.9% girls, 11.6 ± 0.8 years) were recruited from Hungary (n = 158), Belgium (n = 111), the Netherlands (n = 113), Greece (n = 169) and Switzerland (n = 215). Children wore an accelerometer to measure MVPA and sedentary time.

Results

Cluster analysis revealed four clusters in both gender groups showing an unhealthy pattern (low MVPA/high sedentary time), a healthy pattern (high MVPA/low sedentary time), a low mixed pattern (low MVPA/low sedentary time) and a moderate to high mixed pattern (moderate to high MVPA/moderate sedentary time). In girls, the high MVPA/low sedentary time cluster had a significantly lower BMI (P ≤ 0.05), a lower waist circumference (P ≤ 0.01) and the lowest percentage of overweight (P ≤ 0.10) compared with the other three clusters. In boys, both clusters with higher activity levels had a significantly lower BMI (P ≤ 0.001) and waist circumference (P ≤ 0.001) than the two low activity clusters, independent of sedentary time.

Conclusion

Engagement in more MVPA and less sedentary time is associated with a more favourable weight status among 10- to 12-year-old girls. Among boys, MVPA seems most important for weight status, while sedentary time appears to be less relevant.