Sociodemographic differences in patterns of sedentary and physically active behavior in children and adolescents

Faculty of Nursing, University of Iceland, Reykjavík.
Acta Paediatrica (Impact Factor: 1.67). 05/2001; 90(4):429-35. DOI: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2001.tb00445.x
Source: PubMed


Numerous studies have found that involvement in moderate-intensity and strenuous activity has positive effects on health. This study considered the prevalence of different aspects of physical activity and sedentary behavior in 11–16-y-olds based on a representative national survey of 3270 Icelandic primary schoolchildren (91% response rate). All-day sedentary behavior was extremely rare (<1%), and the vast majority (91%) were physically active (≫3 times per week) during school or leisure time, thanks largely to school physical education. Only 39% were physically active (≫3 times per week) during leisure time, and only 29% engaged in regular (≫3 times per week) leisure time strenuous exercise. Girls were more sedentary, less leisure time physically active, and less involved in leisure time strenuous exercise. Sedentary behavior increased and physically active behavior decreased with age, especially after early adolescence. However, there were no age differences in strenuous leisure time exercise. Upper-class students were less sedentary and more physically active during leisure time than working-class students. Finally, rural students were more sedentary during leisure time, and less physically active than students from urban areas. An interaction was found between age and residence when predicting leisure time physical activity, indicating that the inverse age-activity relationship in urban areas is partly reversed in rural areas.
Conclusion: Compulsory school physical education frequently failed to translate into voluntary physical involvement. Sociodemographic differences in physical activity were greater during leisure time, than during school and leisure time combined.

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    • "Descriptive data of the study sample are given in Table 1. The particular age group was selected after taking into account the following: (i) the measuring method, which was based on a self-reporting questionnaire, considered appropriate and reliable for schoolchildren aged 11þ (Sallis and Owen, 1999); (ii) the fact that 6th grade students have experienced many more years at school and may thus deliver a better judgment; (iii) this age group is on the verge of adolescence, during which documented reduction of PA begins and sedentary behaviour increases (Booth et al., 2002; Kristjansdottir and Vilhjalmsson, 2001); and finally, (iv) initially the sample size was considered sufficient for the study purposes. A larger sample may have caused problems to the participant schools' daily routine as the questionnaire took 2 hours to complete. "
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