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Open Access Research article

The effects of individual, family and environmental factors on physical activity levels in children: a cross-sectional study

Sharon L Cadogan*, Eimear Keane and Patricia M Kearney

Author Affiliations

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork, Fourth Floor, Western Gateway Building, Western Road, Cork, Ireland

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BMC Pediatrics 2014, 14:107  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-107

Published: 21 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Physical activity plays an important role in optimising physical and mental health during childhood, adolescence, and throughout adult life. This study aims to identify individual, family and environmental factors that determine physical activity levels in a population sample of children in Ireland.

Methods

Cross-sectional analysis of the first wave (2008) of the nationally representative Growing Up in Ireland study. A two-stage clustered sampling method was used where national schools served as the primary sampling unit (response rate: 82%) and age eligible children from participating schools were the secondary units (response rate: 57%). Parent reported child physical activity levels and potential covariates (parent and child reported) include favourite hobby, total screen time, sports participation and child body mass index (measured by trained researcher). Univariate and multivariate multinomial logistic regression (forward block entry) examined the association between individual, family and environmental level factors and physical activity levels.

Results

The children (Nā€‰=ā€‰8,568) were classified as achieving low (25%), moderate (20%) or high (55%) physical activity levels. In the fully adjusted model, male gender (OR 1.64 [95% CI: 1.34-2.01]), having an active favourite hobby (OR 1.65 [95% CI: 1.31-2.08]) and membership of sports or fitness team (OR 1.90 [95% CI: 1.48-2.45]) were significantly associated with being in the high physical activity group. Exceeding two hours total screen time (OR 0.66 [95% CI: 0.52-0.85]), being overweight (OR 0.41 [95%CI: 0.27-0.61]; or obese (OR 0.68 [95%CI: 0.54-0.86]) were significantly associated with decreased odds of being in the high physical activity group.

Conclusions

Individual level factors appear to predict PA levels when considered in the multiple domains. Future research should aim to use more robust objective measures to explore the usefulness of the interconnect that exists across these domains. In particular how the family and environmental settings could be useful facilitators for consistent individual level factors such as sports participation.

Keywords:
Physical activity levels; Active; Children; Determinants; Predictors; Individual; Family; Environmental; School