Differences in Physical Activity Among Adults in Households With and Without Children

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Restricted access


The study aim was to assess the relation of parent status to physical activity (PA) and the impact of parental roles, age and number of children on PA.


Data for 909 women and 965 men, aged 20–57, were analyzed. Mixed Models were used to assess differences in PA between parents and adults without children, with analyses stratified by sex. The primary outcome was accelerometer-measured total daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA).


Parenthood was not related to MVPA, but mothers reported more total PA than nonmothers. For mothers and fathers, self-reported household activity was higher and sitting time lower, compared with nonparents. Both men and women with children aged 0–5 reported the highest household activity and the lowest sitting time, with household PA higher and sitting time lower with more children. There was no evidence that leisure, transport, or occupational activity varied by parenthood.


Considering the potential impact of child-rearing on parent time demands, there was little difference in parents’ objectively measured MVPA compared with nonparents. Educational interventions or extracurricular programs for students and parents could target families with school-aged children. Development of tools to obtain parent reports of child care-specific PA behaviors would be useful.

Candelaria, Conway, and Slymen are with the School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA. Candelaria is also with the Dept of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California, San Diego. Sallis is with the Dept of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA. Saelens is with the Dept of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Frank is with the School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.