Children’s waking time 60% sedentary

A study of Irish children who wore devices clocking their physical activity for a week found they were sedentary for more than 60% of their waking hours.

The research found that, in contrast, the children were engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity for just under 11% of the period analysed, and almost a quarter of the children who took part in the study were overweight or obese.

The survey of 826 children aged 8-11 years involved having them wear Geneactiv accelerometers on their wrists for seven days to categorise time spent doing exercise and sedentary time.

The research, ‘Physical activity, sedentary behaviour and the risk of overweight and obesity in school-aged children’, found 23.7% of children were overweight/obese.

On average, children spent 10.8% of waking time at MVPA (mild to vigorous physical activity) and 61.3% sedentary.

Just one fifth of children achieved the MVPA recommendations of an hour or more every day, while 17.5% met sedentary time recommendations of less than two hours every day.

The research was conducted as part of the Cork Children’s Lifestyle (CCLaS) Study, with data collected on children from Cork City and Mitchelstown. It was led by Eimear Keane, public health information analyst with HSE Mid West, Janas Harrington of the HRB Centre for Health & Diet Research at the School of Public Health at UCC, and Patricia Kearney of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in UCC. The children wore the accelerometers 24 hours a day for a week, while parents completed a questionnaire.

Overall, 94.6% of girls and 89.6% of boys had adequate parent-reported sleep time, while a higher proportion of boys met the recommended MPVA time than girls — 26.6% versus 16.3%. A higher proportion of normal-weight children met the MVPA recommendations than overweight children.

“Over the total week, children spent on average 27.9% (234.6 minutes) of their time at light physical activity, 10.8% (90.6 minutes) of their time at MVPA and 61.3% (8.6 hours) of their time sedentary (not including sleeping time),” it said.

“Boys spent more time engaged in MVPA than girls on weekdays, weekend days, and over the total week, and also spent slightly more time sedentary than girls over the total week (8.6 v 8.5 hours).”

Just 5.2% of children met both recommendations in relation to MVPA and sedentary time, yet 65.5% of children in the study met neither, including more than 80% of those who were overweight or obese.

“Low MVPA was associated with an increased risk of childhood overweight/obesity independent of sedentary time. Meeting ST recommendations (but not objective sedentary time) was associated with childhood overweight/obesity independent of physical activity.”

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