The activity-stat theory infers that total physical activity (PA) in children is constant, independent of environmental interventions.
We conducted a 3-year prospective population-based controlled PA intervention study including, at baseline, 7- to 9-year-old children (66 boys, 40 girls in the intervention and 50 boys, 38 girls in the control group). PA was increased in the intervention group from 60 to 200 minutes/week, while the controls maintained 60 minutes/week. We registered weekly duration of total PA and leisure-time PA and daily duration of sedentary activities, through questionnaires at baseline and 2 and 3 years after baseline.
Between intervention and control groups PA was similar before intervention start. After intervention start, total PA in both genders was increased during the entire period (P-values adjusted for age and Tanner stage at follow-up between 0.001 and 0.002). Duration of sedentary activities was unchanged with no group differences. Children in the intervention group changed their behavior so that they also achieved more leisure-time PA.
A 3-year school-based PA intervention program in prepubertal children increases the duration of total PA without increasing the duration of sedentary activities, and the program seems to initiate more PA during leisure-time. Our results refute the activity-stat theory.