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Physical activity and its correlates in children: a cross-sectional study (the GINIplus & LISAplus studies)

Sandra Ortlieb12, Gabriel Schneider1, Sibylle Koletzko3, Dietrich Berdel4, Andrea von Berg4, Carl-Peter Bauer5, Beate Schaaf6, Olf Herbarth7, Irina Lehmann8, Barbara Hoffmann9, Joachim Heinrich1, Holger Schulz1* and GINIplus and LISAplus Study Groups

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Epidemiology I, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1, Neuherberg, 85764, Germany

2 Institut für Medizinische Statistik und Epidemiologie, TUM, Munich, Germany

3 Dr von Hauner Children’s Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Munich, Germany

4 Department of Pediatrics, Marien-Hospital Wesel, Wesel, Germany

5 Department of Pediatrics, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany

6 Medical Practice for Pediatrics, Bad Honnef, Germany

7 Faculty of Medicine, Environmental Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

8 Department for Environmental Immunology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig, Germany

9 IUF Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine and Medical Faculty, Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:349  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-349

Published: 16 April 2013



Physical inactivity among children is an increasing problem that adversely affects children’s health. A better understanding of factors which affect physical activity (PA) will help create effective interventions aimed at raising the activity levels of children. This cross-sectional study examined the associations of PA with individual (biological, social, behavioral, psychological) and environmental (East vs. West Germany, rural vs. urban regions) characteristics in children.


Information on PA and potential correlates was collected from 1843 girls and 1997 boys using questionnaires during the 10-year follow-up of two prospective birth cohort studies (GINIplus and LISAplus). Study regions represent urban and rural sites as well as East and West of Germany. Logistic regression modeling was applied to examine cross-sectional associations between individual as well as environmental factors and PA levels.


Five of fourteen variables were significantly associated with PA. Among children aged 10, girls tended to be less active than boys, especially with respect to vigorous PA (OR = 0.72 for summer). Children who were not a member of a sports club showed a substantially reduced amount of PA in winter (OR = 0.15). Rural environments promote moderate PA, particularly in winter (OR = 1.88), whereas an increased time outdoors primarily promotes moderate PA in summer (OR = 12.41). Children with abnormal emotional symptoms exhibited reduced physical activity, particularly in winter (OR = 0.60). BMI, puberty, parental BMI, parental education, household income, siblings, TV/PC consumption, and method of arriving school, were not associated with PA.


When considering correlates of PA from several domains simultaneously, only few factors (sex, sports club membership, physical environment, time outdoors, and emotional symptoms) appear to be relevant. Although the causality needs to be ascertained in longitudinal studies, variables which cannot be modified should be used to identify risk groups while modifiable variables, such as sports club activities, may be addressed in intervention programs.

Activity; Children; Correlates; Exercise; Inactivity; Determinants; Associations; Behavior; Environment; Social