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Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 Jun;41(6 Suppl 3):S197-239. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0663.

Systematic review of the relationships between objectively measured physical activity and health indicators in school-aged children and youth.

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a Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, 401 Smyth Road, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1, Canada.
b School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada.
c Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H9, Canada.
d Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, USA.
e Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.
f Office of the Task Force on Preventive Health Care, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9, Canada.
g School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 1C7, Canada.
h Library and Media Services, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1, Canada.


Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is essential for disease prevention and health promotion. Emerging evidence suggests other intensities of physical activity (PA), including light-intensity activity (LPA), may also be important, but there has been no rigorous evaluation of the evidence. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the relationships between objectively measured PA (total and all intensities) and health indicators in school-aged children and youth. Online databases were searched for peer-reviewed studies that met the a priori inclusion criteria: population (apparently healthy, aged 5-17 years), intervention/exposure/comparator (volumes, durations, frequencies, intensities, and patterns of objectively measured PA), and outcome (body composition, cardiometabolic biomarkers, physical fitness, behavioural conduct/pro-social behaviour, cognition/academic achievement, quality of life/well-being, harms, bone health, motor skill development, psychological distress, self-esteem). Heterogeneity among studies precluded meta-analyses; narrative synthesis was conducted. A total of 162 studies were included (204 171 participants from 31 countries). Overall, total PA was favourably associated with physical, psychological/social, and cognitive health indicators. Relationships were more consistent and robust for higher (e.g., MVPA) versus lower (e.g., LPA) intensity PA. All patterns of activity (sporadic, bouts, continuous) provided benefit. LPA was favourably associated with cardiometabolic biomarkers; data were scarce for other outcomes. These findings continue to support the importance of at least 60 min/day of MVPA for disease prevention and health promotion in children and youth, but also highlight the potential benefits of LPA and total PA. All intensities of PA should be considered in future work aimed at better elucidating the health benefits of PA in children and youth.


academic achievement; activité physique; behavioural conduct; bien-être; biomarqueurs cardiométaboliques; body composition; bone health; cardiometabolic biomarkers; children; comportement; composition corporelle; condition physique; enfant; fitness; physical activity; quality of life; qualité de vie; réussite scolaire; santé osseuse; well-being

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