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Are Birth Weight, Early Growth, and Motor Development Determinants of Physical Activity in Children and Youth? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Guro Pauck Øglund, Maria Hildebrand, and Ulf Ekelund

The purpose of this systematic review was to explore whether birth weight, early growth and motor development act as determinants of physical activity in children and youth.


We performed a systematic literature search on the possible early life determinants. A meta-analysis was performed on the association between birthweight and objectively measured physical activity.


We identified 9 studies examining birth weight, in which none of the studies with objectively measured physical activity observed an association between birth weight and physical activity. The meta-analysis confirmed this result (b=-3.08, 95% CI -10.20, 4.04). The 3 studies examining early growth and physical activity in youth differ in methodology and the results are inconsistent. Two studies suggest an association between earlier motor development and physical activity and sport participation in youth. This was not confirmed in a third study.


Our meta-analysis suggests that birth weight is not an important determinant of physical activity in youth. Available data does not allow firm conclusions whether early growth and motor development act as determinants of physical activity in youth.

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Assessing Physical Activity among Children with Accelerometers Using Different Time Sampling Intervals and Placements

Andreas Nilsson, Ulf Ekelund, Agneta Yngve, and Michael Söström

The aim was to investigate (a) the effect of five different time sampling intervals (epoch settings) on different intensity levels when assessing physical activity with an accelerometer (CSA, WAM 7164), and (b) whether the placement of the monitor (on the hip and back) would affect the outcome. Sixteen children (aged 7 yrs) were monitored for four consecutive days. A significant main epoch effect was found for time spent at very high (p < .01) and high (p < .01) intensity activities. No significant difference between the two placements regarding total amount of physical activity (cnts • min−1) or different intensity levels was observed. In conclusion, different time sampling intervals, but not placement, should be carefully considered when assessing physical activity.

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Validation of activPAL Defined Sedentary Time and Breaks in Sedentary Time in 4- to 6-Year-Olds

Xanne Janssen, Dylan P. Cliff, John J. Reilly, Trina Hinkley, Rachel A. Jones, Marijka Batterham, Ulf Ekelund, Soren Brage, and Anthony D. Okely

This study examined the classification accuracy of the activPAL, including total time spent sedentary and total number of breaks in sedentary behavior (SB) in 4- to 6-year-old children. Forty children aged 4–6 years (5.3 ± 1.0 years) completed a ~150-min laboratory protocol involving sedentary, light, and moderate- to vigorous-intensity activities. Posture was coded as sit/lie, stand, walk, or other using direct observation. Posture was classified using the activPAL software. Classification accuracy was evaluated using sensitivity, specificity and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC-AUC). Time spent in each posture and total number of breaks in SB were compared using paired sample t-tests. The activPAL showed good classification accuracy for sitting (ROC-AUC = 0.84) and fair classification accuracy for standing and walking (0.76 and 0.73, respectively). Time spent in sit/lie and stand was overestimated by 5.9% (95% CI = 0.6−11.1%) and 14.8% (11.6−17.9%), respectively; walking was underestimated by 10.0% (−12.9−7.0%). Total number of breaks in SB were significantly overestimated (55 ± 27 over the course of the protocol; p < .01). The activPAL performed well when classifying postures in young children. However, the activPAL has difficulty classifying other postures, such as kneeling. In addition, when predicting time spent in different postures and total number of breaks in SB the activPAL appeared not to be accurate.

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Associations of Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time With Arterial Stiffness in Pre-Pubertal Children

Eero A. Haapala, Juuso Väistö, Aapo Veijalainen, Niina Lintu, Petri Wiklund, Kate Westgate, Ulf Ekelund, Virpi Lindi, Soren Brage, and Timo A. Lakka


To investigate the relationships of objectively measured physical activity (PA) and sedentary time (ST) to arterial stiffness in prepubertal children.


Altogether 136 children (57 boys, 79 girls) aged 6–8-years participated in the study. Stiffness index (SI) was assessed by pulse contour analysis based on photoplethysmography. ST, light PA, moderate PA, and vigorous PA were assessed using combined acceleration and heart rate monitoring. We investigated the associations of ST (<1.5METs) and time spent in intensity level of PA above 2–7METs in min/d with SI using linear regression analysis. We studied the optimal duration and intensity of PA to identify children being in the highest quarter of SI using Receiver Operating Characteristics curves.


Moderate PA, vigorous PA, and cumulative time spent in PA above 3 (β=–0.279, p = .002), 4 (β =–0.341, P<0.001), 5 (β =–0.349, P<0.001), 6 (β =–0.312, P<0.001), and 7 (β =–0.254, p = .005) METs were inversely associated with SI after adjustment for age, sex, and monitor wear time. The cutoffs for identifying children being in the highest quarter of SI <68 min/d for PA exceeding 5 METs and <26 min/d for PA exceeding 6 METs.


Lower levels of PA exceeding 3–6 METs were related to higher arterial stiffness in children.