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Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012 Apr 3;9:39. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-39.

Longitudinal, cross-cohort comparison of physical activity patterns in Chinese mothers and children.

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Department of Nutrition and Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.



There is limited evidence comparing adult and child physical activity (PA) trends and examining parent-child PA associations within a newly industrialized country setting. PA research within a newly industrialized country setting is particularly important given the negative effects of rapid urbanization, socioeconomic growth, and technological advances on PA behaviors. The purpose of our study was to examine trends and associations in PA behaviors in Chinese mother-child pairs and to investigate relationships between PA behaviors and socioeconomic variables in this dyad.


We studied PA behaviors in 2 separate cohorts of mother-child pairs (n = 353) followed over a 2-4 year time period using longitudinal data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey (2000 COHORT: 2000-2004; 2004 COHORT: 2004-2006). Comparable mother-child PA behaviors included total metabolic equivalent hours per week (MET-hrs/wk) from active commuting, leisure-time sports, and sedentary behaviors. Logistic regression models were used to examine associations between mother and child PA and relationships between PA behaviors and socioeconomic variables.


Children experienced increases in active commuting and leisure-time sports activities with increasing child age, whereas mothers experienced temporal declines in active commuting and minimal change in leisure-time sports activity. Sedentary behavior was high for children and mothers over time. Mother-child associations were positive for active commuting and leisure-time sports activities and negative for sedentary behavior (P < 0.05). Maternal education was associated with a greater likelihood of high leisure-time sports activity and high sedentary behavior in mothers but not in children (P < 0.05).


Efforts to reduce sedentary behavior in Chinese mothers and children are imperative. While increased leisure-time and active commuting activities in children is encouraging, continued PA promotion in children and more intensive efforts to promote leisure-time sports and active commuting in mothers is needed.

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