A National Survey of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior of Chinese City Children and Youth Using Accelerometers

By Wang, Chao; Chen, Peijie et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, December 2013 | Go to article overview

A National Survey of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior of Chinese City Children and Youth Using Accelerometers


Wang, Chao, Chen, Peijie, Zhuang, Jie, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to objectively assess levels of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB) of Chinese city children and youth aged 9 to 17 years old using accelerometers and to examine their differences by gender, age, grade, and weight status. Method: The PA and SB of 2,163 students in 4th grade through 11th grade ([M.sub.age] = 160.87 [+ or -] 27.00 months [13.41 [+ or -] 2.25 years], 50.21% boys) from 11 cities in China were measured by accelerometers. The amount of time spent in SB, light PA, moderate PA, vigorous PA, and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) was computed based on cutoff points developed specifically for the Chinese children and youth. The participants were classified into normal-weight, overweight, and obese groups based on their body mass index (BMI). Paired-sample t tests were conducted to examine the differences in PA and SB between weekdays and weekend days. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to test the differences in PA and SB variables by gender, age, grade, and weight status, respectively. Results: Chinese city children and youth spent an average of 28.26 [+ or -] 17.66 min/day in MVPA and 521.50 [+ or -] 110.02 min/day in SB. Only 9.4% of boys and 1.9% of girls met the recommendation of 60 min/day of MVPA. Chinese city children and youth were more active during weekdays than during weekend days, and boys were more active than girls; older children and youth spent more daily time in MVPA, but also spent more time being sedentary. No differences in PA and SB were found across different BMI categories. Conclusion: The findings warn of the insufficiency of PA and the excess of SB in Chinese city children and youth.

Keywords: ActiGraph, MPA, MVPA, VPA

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The benefits of physical activity (PA) in the health of children and youth have been well documented and include increased physical fitness (both cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength), reduced body fatness, favorable cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk profiles, and enhanced bone health (Dencker & Andersen, 2008; Janssen & Leblanc, 2010). However, studies show that children and youth tend to have sedentary lifestyles and spend nearly 6 hr to 8 hr per day sitting (Pate, Mitchell, Byun, & Dowda, 2011). Physical inactivity has been identified as one of the major public health problems of the 21st century (Armstrong, 2012; Blair, 2009). Therefore, at least 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) per day is recommended specifically for children and youth for health-enhancing purposes (World Health Organization [WHO], 2010).

Accurate estimation of PA levels at a population level could provide an important reference for policymakers to better understand the prevalence of PA and therefore to develop more specific intervention strategies. In the past, PA surveys among children and youth have largely relied on self-reports or proxy-reports, which have been demonstrated to have low validity and reliability (Chinapaw, Mokkink, van Poppel, van Mechelen, & Terwee, 2010). Since the late 1990s, the accelerometer has emerged as an objective measurement mean and is frequently used for the measurement of daily PA. Accelerometers enable measurement of the frequency, intensity, and duration of PA and are considered a valid, reliable, and feasible instrument to use in large-scale observational and intervention studies (Plasqui & Westerterp, 2007; Trost et al., 1998).

In recent years, objective measures such as accelerometer have been applied to collect population data on PA of children and youth in large-scale studies in Western countries (Colley et al., 2011; Ruiz et al., 2011; Troiano et al., 2008). Based on accelerometer data, researchers found that 42% of children and 8% of adolescents in the United States met the recommended 60 min of MVPA per day (Troiano et al., 2008). Among children and youth in Canada, only 9% of boys and 4% of girls accumulated 60 min of MVPA per day for at least 6 days per week (Colley et al. …

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