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Comparison of Physical Activity in Male and Female Children: Does Maturation Matter?

THOMPSON, ANGELA M.1; BAXTER-JONES, ADAM D.G.2; MIRWALD, ROBERT L.2; BAILEY, DONALD A.2 3

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2003 - Volume 35 - Issue 10 - p 1684-1690
doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000089244.44914.1F
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

THOMPSON, A. M., A. D. G. BAXTER-JONES, R. L. MIRWALD, and D. A. BAILEY. Comparison of Physical Activity in Male and Female Children: Does Maturation Matter? Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 10, pp. 1684–1690, 2003.

Purpose TTo investigate whether observed differences in physical activity levels in boys and girls are confounded by biological age differences particularly during the circumpubertal years.

Methods T The physical activity questionnaire for children (PAQ-C) was administered biannually or triannually to 138 (70 boys; 68 girls) Canadian children for seven consecutive years from 1991 to 1997. Participants were 9–18 yr of age. Anthropometric measurements were taken biannually and age at peak height velocity (PHV) determined. Biological age was defined as years from PHV. The data were analyzed using t-tests and random effects models.

Results TLevel of physical activity decreased with increasing chronological age in both sexes. When aligned on chronological age bands, boys had statistically significantly higher PAQ-C summary scores than girls from 10 through 16 yr of age (P < 0.05). However, when aligned on biological age, sex differences were not apparent, except at 3 yr before PHV. Random effects models of individual growth patterns confirmed these findings.

Conclusion TPhysical activity decreased with increasing chronological age in boys and girls. There were no sex differences in the longitudinal pattern of physical activity when the confounding effects of biological age were controlled except at 3 yr before PHV.

1Department of Human Kinetics, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, CANADA;

2College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CANADA; and

3Department of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Dr. Angela Thompson, Department of Human Kinetics, St. Francis Xavier University, P.O. Box 5000, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, CANADA B2G 2W5; E-mail: amthomps@stfx.ca.

Submitted for publication November 2002.

Accepted for publication May 2003.

©2003The American College of Sports Medicine