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Physical Activity Profile of Old Order Amish, Mennonite, and Contemporary Children


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 2 - p 296-303
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181b3afd2
Basic Sciences

Purpose: This study explored the influence of modernity on the physical activity behaviors (e.g., intensity and timing) of children.

Methods: Children aged 8-13 yr living a traditional lifestyle (Old Order Amish [OOA], n = 68; Old Order Mennonite [OOM], n = 120) were compared with children living a contemporary lifestyle (rural Saskatchewan [RSK], n = 132; urban Saskatchewan [USK], n = 93). Physical activity was objectively assessed for seven consecutive days using Actigraph 7164 accelerometers. Custom software was used to reduce the raw accelerometer data into standardized outcome variables.

Results: On weekdays, there were group differences in moderate physical activity between all lifestyle groups (OOA > OOM > USK > RSK). On the weekend, the group differences in moderate physical activity persisted between, but not within, lifestyle groups (OOA = OOM > USK = RSK). During school hours, all groups had similar activity and inactivity periods; however, they differed in magnitude, with the OOA and OOM being both more sedentary and more active. In comparison with the children in school, the OOA and the OOM children had 44% lower sedentary time out of school compared with only 15% lower for RSK and USK children.

Conclusions: Although cross sectional, these data suggest that contemporary/modern living is associated with lower levels of moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity compared with lifestyles representative of earlier generations. Analyzing the physical activity and inactivity patterns of traditional lifestyle groups such as the OOA and the OOM can provide valuable insight into the quantity and quality of physical activity necessary to promote health.

1School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, UNITED KINGDOM; 2College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, CANADA; 3Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA; 4Department of Kinesiology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, CANADA; 5Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; and 6College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

Address for correspondence: Dale W. Esliger, M.Sc., College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, 87 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, S7N 5B2; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2008.

Accepted for publication June 2009.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine