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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physical activity and sedentary behavior among adolescents in rural South Africa: levels, patterns and correlates

Lisa K Micklesfield1*, Titilola M Pedro1, Kathleen Kahn234, John Kinsman3, John M Pettifor1, Stephen Tollman234 and Shane A Norris1

Author Affiliations

1 MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

2 MRC/Wits University Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

3 Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Epidemiology and Global Health Unit, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, 901 85, Umeå Sweden

4 INDEPTH Network, Accra, Ghana

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:40  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-40

Published: 16 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Physical inactivity is increasing among children and adolescents and may be contributing to the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. This study examines physical activity and sedentary behavior patterns, and explores associations with individual, maternal, household, and community factors amongst rural South African adolescents.

Methods

In 2009, 381 subjects, stratified by ages 11-12-years and 14-15-years, were randomly selected from 3511 children and adolescents who had participated in a growth survey two years previously. Weight and height were measured and self-reported Tanner pubertal stage was collected. A questionnaire quantifying frequency and duration of physical activity (PA) domains and sedentary time for the previous 12 months was administered. Moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA mins/wk) was calculated for time spent in school and club sport. Socio-demographic and other related data were included from the Agincourt health and socio-demographic system (HDSS). The Agincourt HDSS was established in 1992 and collects prospective data on the community living in the Agincourt sub-district of Mpumalanga Province in rural north-east South Africa.

Results

Puberty, maternal education and socio-economic status (SES) contributed significantly to the mulitiple linear regression model for sedentary behavior (R2 = 0.199; adjusted R2 = 0.139; p < 0.000), and sex, SES and maternal education contributed to the tobit regression model for school and club sport MVPA (p < 0.000). MVPA, calculated from school and club sport, was higher in boys than girls (p < 0.001), and informal activity was lower (boys: p < 0.05 and girls: p < 0.01) while sedentary time was higher (girls: p < 0.01) in the older than the younger groups. Ninety-two percent (92%) of the sample reported walking for transport.

Conclusions

In this study of rural South African adolescent boys and girls, SES at the maternal, household and community level independently predicted time spent in sedentary behaviors, and school and club MVPA. This study provides local data that can be used to develop health promotion strategies specific to this community, and other similar communities in developing countries.

Keywords:
Rural; Sedentary; South Africa; Adolescent; Sport; Physical activity