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Physical Activity Levels and Patterns of 9- and 15-yr-Old European Children


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2004 - Volume 36 - Issue 1 - p 86-92
doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000106174.43932.92
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

RIDDOCH, C. J., L. B. ANDERSEN, N. WEDDERKOPP, M. HARRO, L. KLASSON-HEGGEBØ, L. B. SARDINHA, A. R. COOPER, and U. EKELUND. Physical Activity Levels and Patterns of 9- and 15-yr-Old European Children. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 86–92, 2004.

Purpose The purpose of this study was to assess physical activity levels and patterns from children participating in the European Youth Heart Study (EYHS). Very limited physical activity data exist that have been collected from representative samples of children and even fewer data collected where physical activity has been measured using objective methods.

Methods Subjects were 2185 children aged 9 and 15 yr from Denmark, Portugal, Estonia, and Norway. Physical activity data were obtained using MTI (formerly CSA) accelerometers. The primary outcome variable was established as the child’s activity level (accelerometer counts per minute). Children wore the accelerometer for 3 or 4 d, which included at least 1 weekend day.

Results Boys were more active than girls at age 9 (784 ± 282 vs 649 ± 204 counts·min−1) and 15 yr (615 ± 228 vs 491 ± 163 counts·min−1). With respect to time engaged in moderate-intensity activity, gender differences were apparent at age 9 (192 ± 66 vs 160 ± 54 min·d−1) and age 15 (99 ± 45 vs 73 ± 32 min·d−1). At age 9, the great majority of boys and girls achieved current health-related physical activity recommendations (97.4% and 97.6%, respectively). At age 15, fewer children achieved the guidelines and gender differences were apparent (boys 81.9% vs girls 62.0%).

Conclusions Accelerometers are a feasible and accurate instrument for use in large epidemiological studies of children’s activity. Boys tend to be more active than girls, and there is a marked reduction in activity over the adolescent years. The great majority of younger children achieve current physical activity recommendations, whereas fewer older children do so—especially older girls.

1Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Bristol and London Institute of Sport, Middlesex University, UNITED KINGDOM;

2Institute of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Copenhagen, DENMARK;

3Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, DENMARK;

4Department of Public Health, University of Tartu, Tartu, ESTONIA;

5Department of Sports Medicine, The Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Oslo, NORWAY;

6Faculty of Human Movement, Technical University of Lisbon, PORTUGAL; and

7Department of Physical Education and Health, Örebro University, Örebro, SWEDEN/Institute of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Chris Riddoch, Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, BS8 1TP, United Kingdom; E-mail

Submitted for publication February 2003.

Accepted for publication August 2003.

©2004The American College of Sports Medicine