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Open Access Research article

More of the same or a change of scenery: an observational study of variety and frequency of physical activity in British children

Hannah L Brooke1, Kirsten Corder12*, Simon J Griffin123, Ulf Ekelund24 and Esther MF van Sluijs12

Author Affiliations

1 UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

2 MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

3 Primary Care Unit, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

4 Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, PO Box 4014, Oslo, Ullevål Stadion 0806, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:761  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-761

Published: 16 August 2013

Abstract

Background

Physical activity is important for children’s health, but successful physical activity promotion is challenging. Whether performing many different types of activities (Variety) is associated with higher physical activity independent of the number of activity sessions (Frequency) is unknown, but this information could inform physical activity promotion and public health strategies in children.

Methods

In the SPEEDY study we measured moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA; ≥2000 counts/minute) over 7 days using GT1M Actigraph accelerometers in 1700 children from Norfolk, UK (56% girls, Mean ± SD 10.3 ± 0.3 years-old). Children reported participation in 28 leisure-time activities over the previous 7 days. Sex differences in activity participation were assessed using multilevel logistic regression, clustered by school. Associations of log-transformed MVPA with z-score-Variety (number of different activities/week) and z-score-Frequency (sum of all activity sessions/week) were examined using multilevel linear regression, adjusted for age, sex, parental education and age-standardised BMI.

Results

Children’s activity participation often reflected gender stereotypes. Mean ± SD Variety was 10.8 ± 5.0 activities/week, and Frequency was 24.2±15.0 sessions/week. In separate models lnMVPA had similar strength, positive associations with z-score-Variety and z-score-Frequency (Exp β(95% CI); Variety 1.04(1.02-1.06), Frequency 1.04(1.02-1.06)). lnMVPA was not associated with z-score-Variety independent of z-score-Frequency (Variety 1.01(0.98-1.04), Frequency 1.03(1.00-1.06)).

Conclusions

Future physical activity interventions and public health strategies could allow for gender specific activity preferences and could target both Variety and Frequency of activities participated in by children.

Keywords:
Children; Physical activity; Accelerometer; Primary school; Intervention; Public health