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Child Care Health Dev. 2011 May;37(3):322-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01175.x. Epub 2010 Nov 18.

Patterns of physical activity in Spanish children: a descriptive pilot study.

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Faculty of Sports Sciences, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, Spain.



The majority of Spanish adults and children do not engage in enough physical activity to be beneficial for health. There is a need for objective and accurate assessment of the proportion of children meeting the physical activity recommendation for health. Assessing patterns of physical activity both between days (during weekdays and weekend days) and within days is of interest to improve our understanding of the variation in Spanish children's physical activity and to provide efficient intervention programmes.


A sample of 221 children: 136 9-year-old children (68 boys and 68 girls) and 85 15-year-old children (36 girls and 49 boys) from 12 urban public schools in Madrid, Spain entered the study. The variables measured were anthropometric characteristics (height, weight, body mass index) and physical activity measured during four consecutive days using the GT1M accelerometer.


Younger children were more active and less sedentary than older ones during week and weekend days. Nine-year-old boys and girls achieved significantly (P < 0.05) more moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and significantly (P < 0.01) less sedentary time than older 15-year-old children. During weekdays more children achieved physical activity recommendations versus weekend days. Physical activity patterns analyses indicated that boys achieved relatively high values of MVPA from 1100 till 1300 h (school break) and from 1800 till 2000 h in comparison with the rest of the day. Girls were substantially different, with the 9-year-old girls having only two obvious peaks of weekday MVPA at lunch (1300) and after school (1900 h) while the adolescent girls had no clear peak of MVPA.


Few children achieved the level of MVPA recommended for health; at particular risk were adolescent girls. More effort needs to be devoted to promoting appropriate opportunities for Spanish girls across the day and to promoting physical activity during weekends for all children.

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