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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physical activity and dietary behaviour in a population-based sample of British 10-year old children: the SPEEDY study (Sport, Physical activity and Eating behaviour: Environmental Determinants in Young people)

Esther MF van Sluijs1*, Paula ML Skidmore2, Kim Mwanza2, Andrew P Jones3, Alison M Callaghan1, Ulf Ekelund1, Flo Harrison3, Ian Harvey2, Jenna Panter3, Nicolas J Wareham1, Aedin Cassidy2 and Simon J Griffin1

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Metabolic Science, Box 285, Addenbrookes Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ, UK

2 School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7JT, UK

3 School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7JT, UK

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:388  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-388

Published: 14 November 2008

Abstract

Background

The SPEEDY study was set up to quantify levels of physical activity (PA) and dietary habits and the association with potential correlates in 9–10 year old British school children. We present here the analyses of the PA, dietary and anthropometry data.

Methods

In a cross-sectional study of 2064 children (926 boys, 1138 girls) in Norfolk, England, we collected anthropometry data at school using standardised procedures. Body mass index (BMI) was used to define obesity status. PA was assessed with the Actigraph accelerometer over 7 days. A cut-off of ≥ 2000 activity counts was used to define minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA). Dietary habits were assessed using the Health Behaviour in School Children food questionnaire. Weight status was defined using published international cut-offs (Cole, 2000). Differences between groups were assessed using independent t-tests for continuous data and chi-squared tests for categorical data.

Results

Valid PA data (>500 minutes per day on ≥ 3 days) was available for 1888 children. Mean (± SD) activity counts per minute among boys and girls were 716.5 ± 220.2 and 635.6 ± 210.6, respectively (p < 0.001). Boys spent an average of 84.1 ± 25.9 minutes in MVPA per day compared to 66.1 ± 20.8 among girls (p < 0.001), with an average of 69.1% of children accumulating 60 minutes each day. The proportion of children classified as overweight and obese was 15.0% and 4.1% for boys and 19.3% and 6.6% for girls, respectively (p = 0.001). Daily consumption of at least one portion of fruit and of vegetables was 56.8% and 49.9% respectively, with higher daily consumption in girls than boys and in children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.

Conclusion

Results indicate that almost 70% of children meet national PA guidelines, indicating that a prevention of decline, rather than increasing physical activity levels, might be an appropriate intervention target. Promotion of daily fruit and vegetable intake in this age group is also warranted, possibly focussing on children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.