Despite the plethora of research examining the physical activity-adiposity relation in youth, questions remain regarding the ideal intensity. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the independent effects of physical activity intensity and incidental movement on total and trunk adiposity.
The sample consisted of 1165 youth aged 8 to 17 years from the 2003−04 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Physical activity (low, moderate, vigorous intensity) and incidental movement (activity level when not physically active) were measured using Actigraph accelerometers over 7 days. Total body and trunk fat were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; age- and sex-specific percentile scores were calculated.
Bivariate analyses revealed an inverse relation between total, low, moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity with total body and trunk fat. After consideration of the total volume of physical activity in the multivariate analyses, moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity remained significantly related to total and trunk fat. Participants with the highest (top 12.5%) moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity values had total fat percentile scores that were 34 points lower than participants with the lowest (bottom 25%) values.
These results are consistent with public health guidelines which recommend that children and youth participate in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.