Objectives: Decreased physical activity levels in children may partly explain the rising prevalence of functional constipation in childhood. The aim of the present study, therefore, was to examine the association between physical activity and functional constipation during the preschool period.
Methods: This study was embedded in the Generation R study, a large prospective birth-cohort study in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Physical activity was measured by an Actigraph accelerometer in 347 children (182 boys, 165 girls; mean age 25.1 months) and data were expressed as counts per minute. Data were categorized into light activity (302–614 counts/15 seconds), moderate activity (615–1230 counts/15 seconds), and vigorous activity (≥1231 counts/15 seconds). Functional constipation in the third and fourth year of life was defined according to the Rome II criteria.
Results: Children spending time in the highest tertile of light (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.34; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.13–0.87), moderate (adjusted OR 0.37; 95% CI 0.14–0.97), and total activity (adjusted OR 0.37; 95% CI 0.15–0.92) at the age of 2 years had significantly less functional constipation in the fourth year of life. For functional constipation in the third year of life, the results were in similar direction but not statistically significant. Additionally, children with physical activity of more than the WHO recommendation of 60 min/day had significantly less functional constipation in the fourth year of life (adjusted OR 0.48; 95% CI 0.24–0.97).
Conclusions: Physical activity is associated with a decreased risk of functional constipation in the preschool period, but this may be time dependent.