Open Access Open Badges Research article

Physical activity and fat mass gain in Mexican school-age children: a cohort study

Alejandra Jáuregui, Salvador Villalpando*, Eduardo Rangel-Baltazar, Yaveth A Lara-Zamudio and Marcia M Castillo-García

Author Affiliations

Division of Nutrition and Health, National Institute of Public Health of Mexico, Av Universidad 655 Col Sta Ma Ahuacatitlán, Cuernavaca, Morelos, C.P. 62100, Mexico

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:109  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-109

Published: 28 July 2012



In México, the prevalence of unhealthy weight increased from 24% at 6 y to 33% at 12 y of age, opening a window of opportunity to better understand the pathogenesis of obesity. The objective of this study was to explore the association between time spent on medium, vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and concurrent gains in BMI, fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM), alternately, in a cohort of Mexican children followed from kindergarten (baseline) to 2nd grade elementary school (endline).


The MVPA (5-d accelerometry), BMI, FM and FFM (air displacement plethysmography) were measured at baseline and endline. Associations between gains in BMI, FM and FFM and changes in MVPA were examined using lagged and dynamic regression models, controlling for energy intake and demographic variables.


A total of 205 children were analyzed. Gender affected the effect of MVPA on FM gain. In girls, a high baseline MVPA predicted a lower FM gain (-0.96 kg, p=0.025) compared to low/medium MVPA. Increasing, decreasing or having a persistently high MVPA predicted a lower FM gain (range -1.6 to -1.03 kg, p<0.05) compared to persistently low MVPA. In boys, increases in MVPA were associated with higher gains in BMI (+0.76 kg/m2, p=0.04) and FFM (+1.1 kg, p=0.01) compared to persistently low MVPA.


These results support a protective role of MVPA on FM gain in girls, suggesting that it may play a crucial role in the development of obesity. Further research on the gender effect of MVPA is warranted to better understand its role in the prevention and control of overweight and obesity.