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Prev Med. 2011 Oct;53(4-5):293-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.07.019. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Activity compensation and activity synergy in British 8-13 year olds.

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  • 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.



To examine whether children compensate for participating in physically active behaviors by reducing activity at other times (the 'activitystat' hypothesis); or alternatively become more active at other times (activity synergy).


In 2002-2006, 345 British children (8-13 years) completed activity diaries and wore accelerometers. This generated 1077 days of data which we analyzed between-children (comparing all days) and within-child (comparing days from the same child).


On week and weekend days, each extra 1% of time in PE/games, school breaks, school active travel, non-school active travel, structured sports and out-of-home play predicted a 0.21 to 0.60% increase in the proportion of the day in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). None of these behaviors showed evidence of reduced MVPA at other times, i.e. activity compensation (all p>0.15). Moreover, each 1% increase in weekday non-school active travel predicted 0.38% more time in MVPA at other times (95% CI 0.18, 0.58). This activity synergy reflected children using active travel for playing and visiting friends.


Contrary to the 'activitystat' hypothesis, we found no evidence of activity compensation. This suggests that interventions increasing activity in specific behaviors may increase activity overall. The activity synergy of non-school active travel underlines the need for further research into this neglected behavior.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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