Higher prevalence of obesity in Greek children living in rural areas despite increased levels of physical activity

Authors

  • Konstantinos D Tambalis,

    1. Department of Nutrition – Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece
    2. Department of Sport Medicine and Biology of Physical Activity, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
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  • Demosthenes B Panagiotakos,

    1. Department of Nutrition – Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece
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  • Stavros A Kavouras,

    1. Department of Nutrition – Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece
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  • Sofia Papoutsakis,

    1. Department of Nutrition – Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece
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  • Labros S Sidossis

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Nutrition – Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece
    • Department of Internal Medicine, Sealy Center on Aging, Institute for Translational Sciences and Shriners Hospitals for Children, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston, Texas, United States
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  • Authors' contributions: KT designed the study, performed the data collection and analysis and wrote the paper. DP and SK participated in the design of the study and critically reviewed the paper. SP participated in the data collection and interpretation. LS was involved in the study design, manuscript writing and in overall supervision of the study.
  • Conflicts of interest: None declared.

Correspondence: Professor Labros S. Sidossis, Department of Internal Medicine, Sealy Center on Aging, Institute for Translational Sciences and Shriners Hospitals for Children, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, Texas 77555-0177, USA. Fax: 409 772 1942; email: lasidoss@utmb.edu

Abstract

Aim

The purpose of the present study was to evaluate whether levels of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviours could explain observed differences in the prevalence of childhood obesity in a sample of Greek children.

Methods

Epidemiological study. PA and sedentary behaviours were assessed by a self-administrated PA checklist. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from measured weight and height. A representative sample of Greek children aged 10–12 years attending fifth and sixth grade (n = 3195), living in rural and urban areas, were enrolled. Maturation status was not evaluated due to technical reasons.

Results

Prevalence of obesity was higher among children living in rural areas as compared with urban areas (12.1% vs. 10.7%, P < 0.01). Surprisingly, children living in rural areas had higher levels of self-reported PA (P < 0.001) and met current PA guidelines to a greater extent than their urban counterparts (P < 0.05). Furthermore, boys had higher levels of total, low-to-moderate intensity and vigorous intensity physical activity, as well as sedentary behaviours, than girls (all P-values <0.05). Stratified analysis by BMI category revealed that normal weight boys and girls had higher levels of total PA and vigorous intensity physical activity compared with overweight and obese boys from the same type of setting (all P-values <0.05).

Conclusions

Children living in rural areas have higher levels of PA and more frequently met PA guidelines than their urban counterparts, despite a higher prevalence of obesity.

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