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Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2010 Dec 9;7:88. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-7-88.

An investigation of patterns of children's sedentary and vigorous physical activity throughout the week.

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Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge, UK.



Participation in higher intensity activity (i.e. vigorous physical activity [VPA]) appears more consistently associated with lower adiposity, unfortunately little is known about the nature and patterns of VPA participation in children.


To examine the volume and patterns of vigorous and sedentary activity during different segments of the week (weekend, school-based and out-of-school). We also investigated differences by sex, socioeconomic status (SES) and weight status.


A cross-sectional study including 1568 UK children aged 9-10 years.


Sedentary activity (mins), total activity (counts/min) and VPA (mins) were measured by accelerometry. Using a series of 2 level mixed effects linear regression models we tested differences across the segmented week (school time [0900-1500] vs. out-of-school time [0700-0900 & 1500-2100]; and weekday vs. weekend); all models were adjusted for sex, weight status (gender- and age-specific body mass index [BMI] cut points), SES, age and accelerometer registered wear time.


Boys and girls accumulated higher VPA out-of-school compared to during school (boys mean ± SD 16.9 ± 9.6 vs 12.6 ± 5.8; girls, 13.1 ± 7.7 vs 8.2 ± 4.0, both p < 0.001); but there were no differences for weekday v weekend VPA (p > 0.05). Less time was spent sedentary on weekdays compared to weekends (p < 0.001). Although boys were more physically active and girls accumulated more sedentary time, the overall pattern in which their physical activity intensity varied across the various day segments was similar when stratified by weight status and SES; and large volumes of sedentary time were observed each hour across the day.


The promotion of VPA during the weekend may hold the greatest promise for increasing VPA. Interventions aimed at increasing physical activity in 9-10 year old children should aim to target all children independent of sex, SES or weight status.

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