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Valerie Carson


The purpose of this study was to examine cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between parental support and children’s physical activity outside of child care, and whether children’s age or sex moderated the associations.


Results are based on 93 children aged 19 to 60 months at baseline from 8 child care centers across Alberta, Canada. Parental support (ie, transportation, coactivity, watching, encouragement, and informing) and children’s physical activity outside of child care were measured with a parental questionnaire at baseline (October/November 2013) and follow-up (May/June 2014).


Every additional unit increase in parental support was significantly associated with 48.5 minutes/week [95% Confidence Interval (CI): 29.3–67.6] and 52.2 (95% CI: 32.0–72.3) minutes/week higher parental reported children’s physical activity outside of child care at baseline and follow-up, respectively. A 1-unit increase in parental support from baseline to follow-up was significantly associated with a 24.8 (95% CI: 2.8–46.8) minutes/week increase in parental reported children’s physical activity outside of child care. Children’s age was a moderator at baseline only.


Parental support was positively associated with children’s physical activity across all analyses. Parental support may be an important correlate to target in future interventions aiming to promote physical activity in the early years.

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Valerie Carson, Michelle Stone, and Guy Faulkner

To make robust conclusions regarding the association between accelerometer-measured sedentary time and overweight and obesity among children, several gaps in the literature must be addressed. The purpose of this study was to examine associations between sedentary time, weekday sedentary time, weekend sedentary time, sedentary bouts, sedentary breaks, and BMI z-score among children and by low (bottom 50%) and high (top 50%) moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) participation. Results are based on 787 children aged 11 years living in Toronto, Canada. Children’s physical activity and sedentary time were objectively assessed using ActiGraph accelerometers in 2010/11. Height and weight were measured and BMI z-scores were calculated based on the World Health Organization growth standards. When participants were stratified into low and high MVPA groups, sedentary bouts of 5–9 (β = 0.22 [95% CI: 0.01, 0.43]) and 10–19 (0.30 [−0.05, 0.55]) minutes for total days were associated with BMI z-score in the low MVPA group only. Similar trends were observed with the weekday but not the weekend variables. Therefore, in addition to increasing MVPA, reducing time spent in 5- to 19-min sedentary bouts may have important implications for weight status particularly for children with lower MVPA participation during the week.

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Valerie Carson, Jodie Stearns, and Ian Janssen

The main purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between parental and children’s physical activity and screen time behaviors in a large sample of children in the early years. The results are based on 738 children aged 0–5 years and their parents from the Kingston, Canada area. Parents completed a questionnaire from May to September 2011 that assessed sociodemographic characteristics, their physical activity and screen time, and their child’s physical activity and screen time. Logistic regression models, adjusted for potential confounders, were conducted. Parents in the lowest quartile of physical activity were 2.77 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.68–4.57) times more likely to have a child in the lowest quartile of physical activity compared with parents in the highest quartile of physical activity. Relationships were stronger in two parent homes compared with single-parent homes. Parents in the second (odds ratio = 2.27, 95% CI: 1.36–3.78), third (2.30, 1.32–3.99), and fourth (7.47, 4.53–12.33) screen time quartiles were significantly more likely to have a child in the highest quartile of screen time compared with parents in quartile one. To optimize healthy growth and development in the early years, future family-centered interventions targeting both physical activity and screen time appear important.

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Valerie Carson and John C. Spence

The purpose of this review was to examine seasonal variation in physical activity among children and adolescents. Searches were conducted of electronic databases for studies on seasonal differences in physical activity levels. A total of 35 studies, including children and adolescents between the ages of 2–19 years, were reviewed. Overall, 83% (29/35) of the studies found seasonal variation in physical activity among children and/or adolescents. The results were consistent regardless of the region, physical activity measure, or the study design but the findings were inconsistent across age categories.

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Valerie Carson, Amanda E. Staiano, and Peter T. Katzmarzyk

The purpose of this study was to describe self-reported levels of sitting, moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA), television viewing, and computer use in a representative sample of US adolescents and to make comparisons between sex, race/ethnicity, weight status, and age groups. Results are based on 3556 adolescents aged 12-19 years from the 2007-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants self-reported demographic, sitting, MVPA, television viewing (2011-2012 only) and computer use (2011-2012 only) variables. Height and weight were measured to calculate body mass index. On average, 7.5 hr/day were spent sitting and 34 median min/day were spent participating in MVPA, with females sitting more and participating in less MVPA than males across most demographic groups. Furthermore, obese males sat more and participated in less MVPA than nonoverweight males. Non-Hispanic white females participated in more MVPA than females in all other race/ethnicity groups. For television and computer, 38% and 22% of the sample engaged in >2 hr/day, respectively, and several race/ethnicity differences were observed. This study provides the first U.S. adolescent population estimates on self-reported sitting and updates population estimates on self-reported MVPA, television viewing and computer use. Continued efforts are needed to promote healthy active lifestyles in American adolescents.

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Stephen Hunter, John C. Spence, Scott T. Leatherdale, and Valerie Carson

Background: Neighborhoods are one setting to promote children’s physical activity. This study examined associations between neighborhood features and children’s physical activity and whether season or socioeconomic status modified these associations. Methods: Parents (n = 641) of children aged 6–10 years completed the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale—Abbreviated. Walkability was objectively measured at 400, 800, and 1200 m around the centroid of participants’ postal codes. Children’s physical activity was measured via StepsCount pedometers and parental report. Regression analyses were performed with interaction terms for season and socioeconomic status. Multiple imputation was used primarily to triangulate the results for children with missing steps data (n = 192). Results: Higher perceived residential density and traffic hazards were significantly associated with lower squareroot transformed parental-reported physical activity and steps per day, respectively. Higher perceived aesthetics was associated with higher squareroot transformed parental-reported physical activity. Socioeconomic status modified 2 associations though they were not significant upon stratification. During winter months, better perceived infrastructure and safety for walking was associated with higher squareroot transformed parental-reported physical activity. No other significant associations emerged. Conclusion: Residential density, traffic hazards, and aesthetics are important for children’s physical activity. Few associations were modified by socioeconomic status or season. The need for objective and subjective measures of the neighborhood environment and children’s physical activity is apparent.

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Zhiguang Zhang, Madison Predy, Kylie D. Hesketh, Lesley Pritchard, and Valerie Carson

Background: Demographic correlates of movement behaviors in infants are unclear. This study examined the longitudinal associations between demographic correlates and movement behaviors in infants. Methods: Participants were 411 parents of infants from the Early Movers project in Edmonton, Canada. Movement behaviors, infant and parental age, and nonparental care time were assessed using a parental questionnaire at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Other infant and parental demographic variables were assessed at 2 months of age. Linear and generalized linear mixed models were conducted. Results: Infant age was associated with all movement behaviors except for restrained time. White infants and those with older parents had less tummy time but increased odds of having reading time. Infants of the most educated parents also had lower tummy time. Higher parental education and more siblings were associated with no screen time and longer infant sleep time. Infants with immigrant parent(s) were less likely to have reading time. No associations were found for infant sex, time spent in nonparental care, and parental marital status. Conclusion: Since no single demographic group demonstrated healthy patterns for all movement behaviors, promotion of a healthy balance of movement behaviors may be needed universally for all infants.

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Yeongho Hwang, Madison Boyd, Cody Davenport, and Valerie Carson

Background: The primary objective of this study was to investigate the relative contributions of factors from multiple social-ecological levels in explaining outdoor play changes in childcare centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: In Alberta, Canada, licensed childcare center directors (n = 160) completed an online questionnaire. For outcomes, changes in the frequency and duration of outdoor play in childcare centers during COVID-19 compared to before COVID-19 were measured. For exposures, center demographic, director, parental, social, environmental, and policy-level factors were measured. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted separately for winter (December–March) and nonwinter months (April–November). Results: In most instances, factors at each social-ecological level explained a statistically significant amount of unique variance in changes in outdoor play in childcare centers during COVID-19. Full models accounted for more than 26% of the variance in the outcomes. Changes in parental interest in outdoor play was the most consistent correlate of changes in the frequency and duration of outdoor play in both winter and nonwinter months during COVID-19. In terms of changes in the duration of outdoor play, social support from the provincial government, health authority, and licensing, and changes in the number of play areas in licensed outdoor play spaces were also consistent correlates in both winter and nonwinter months during COVID-19. Conclusions: Factors from multiple social-ecological levels uniquely contributed to changes in outdoor play in childcare centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings can help inform interventions and public health initiatives related to outdoor play in childcare centers during and after the ongoing pandemic.

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Morgan Potter, John C. Spence, Normand Boulé, Jodie A. Stearns, and Valerie Carson

Purpose: Understanding the correlates of children’s fitness as they develop is needed. The objectives of this study were to 1) examine the longitudinal associations between physical activity (PA), screen time (ST), and fitness; 2) determine if sex moderates associations; and 3) track PA and ST over 3 years. Methods: Findings are based on 649 children [baseline = 4.5 (0.5) y; follow-up = 7.8 (0.6) y] from Edmonton, Canada. Parental-reported hour per week of PA and ST were measured at baseline and 3 years later. Fitness (vertical jump, sit and reach, waist circumference, grip strength, predicted VO2max, push-ups, and partial curl-ups) was measured using established protocols at follow-up. Sex-specific z scores or low/high fitness groups were calculated. Linear or logistic multiple regression models and Spearman correlations were conducted. Results: Baseline ST was negatively associated with follow-up grip strength [β = −0.010; 95% confidence interval (CI), −0.019 to −0.001]. Associations between baseline PA and follow-up overall fitness (β = 0.009; 95% CI, 0.002 to 0.016) were significant, whereas baseline PA and follow-up VO2max (β = 0.014; 95% CI, 0.000 to 0.027) approached significance (P < .06). No sex interactions were observed. Moderate and large tracking were observed for PA (r s = .30) and ST (r s = .53), respectively. Conclusions: PA and ST may be important modifiable correlates of overall fitness in young children.

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Stephen Hunter, Valerie Carson, Anna Timperio, Jo Salmon, Alison Carver, and Jenny Veitch

Background: Increased physical inactivity and sedentary behavior among children are a global health concern. Purpose: Examine associations between parents’ perceived neighborhood environment and children’s physical activity, outside time, and screen time, and whether these associations were moderated by age and socioeconomic position (SEP). Methods: Parents (N = 1212) completed a survey during the Recording and EValuating Activity in a Modified Park study. The neighborhood perceptions (social and physical environment), children’s age, physical activity, outside time, and screen time were parent-reported. The SEP was derived from the Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage. Multiple linear and logistic regressions were performed with age and SEP interactions. Results: Favorable perceptions of opportunities to be active and exercise were associated with a higher likelihood of meeting physical activity guidelines. Favorable perceptions of neighborhood ease for walking and a larger social network were also associated with more outdoor time. Moderation analyses revealed that favorable perceptions of several physical and social neighborhood environment features were associated with a higher likelihood of meeting physical activity guidelines in the high-SEP group and were negatively associated with preschoolers’ weekday screen time. Conclusion: Future neighborhood environment initiatives and interventions aiming to promote active living communities should consider differences in age and SEP.