Open Access Research article

Primary caregiver knowledge of paediatric physical activity recommendations in the United Kingdom and its association with caregiver behaviour: an observational study

Alexia Sawyer1, Lee Smith1, Stephanie Schrempft1, Cornelia HM van Jaarsveld12, Jane Wardle1 and Abigail Fisher1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

2 Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King’s College London, Capital House, 42 Weston Street, London SE1 3QD, UK

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:795  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-795

Published: 4 August 2014



Most children in affluent developed countries do not meet basic physical activity recommendations. This study assessed primary caregiver knowledge of the UK recommendations on physical activity for children and examined the relationship between knowledge and components of parental support and modelling of physical activity.


Data were from a large, community-based twin birth cohort. Primary caregivers were invited to take part in a telephone interview on the home food and activity environment that included a question on knowledge of the minimum amount of physical activity recommended in UK child guidelines. Socio-demographic variables (maternal age, BMI, education, ethnicity and presence of co-habiting partner) were available from previously completed questionnaires. Parental support and modelling of physical activity variables were assessed during the telephone interview. Binary logistic regression analyses examined the relationship between knowledge and socio-demographic variables and components of parental support and modelling of physical activity.


1,113 families took part in the interview. Only 21% of participants knew the recommended amount of physical activity for children. Higher maternal education was associated with knowledge of the recommendation (Odds Ratio (OR) 2.82; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.66, 4.79, p < 0.001). Knowledge of the recommendation was associated with communicating positive messages about physical activity to child (OR 1.52; 95% CI 1.12, 2.06, p = 0.008), watching the child participating in physical activity (OR 1.69; 95% CI 1.11, 2.55,p = 0.013) and showing the child they enjoyed physical activity themselves (OR 1.51; 95% CI 1.08, 2.12,p = 0.016) but not associated with encouraging the child to be active, doing physical activity with the child, being active in front of the child or showing enthusiasm about being active.


Most primary caregivers in the UK do not know how much physical activity is recommended for children but those who do may be more supportive of physical activity for their child. Wider dissemination of the guidelines could be an important step in increasing population levels of physical activity.

Physical activity; Physical activity guidelines; Children; Primary caregivers