OBJECTIVES:

Physical activity (PA) is presumed to decline during childhood and adolescence, but only few long-term studies about PA development during this period of life exist. We assessed PA and sedentary behavior (SB) over a 5-year period to gain a better understanding of the extent of change in activity and potential influencing factors.

METHODS:

PA and SB of 600 children from the Childhood Obesity Project were objectively measured with the SenseWear Armband 2 at the ages of 6, 8, and 11 years, resulting in 1254 observations. Longitudinal changes of total PA, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), light physical activity (LPA), and SB were modeled with mixed-effects models.

RESULTS:

Total PA revealed a significant quadratic decline with age (P < .001), resulting in a change of total PA by –75.3 minutes per day from 6 to 11 years. LPA linearly declined (P < .001) by 44.6 minutes per day, MVPA quadratically declined (P < .001) by an overall 30.7 minutes, whereas SB increased significantly (+107 minutes; P = .001). Boys showed a steeper decline in LPA (P = .003) and MVPA (P < .001) than did girls. Higher fat mass index and BMI z scores were associated with lower levels of total PA and MVPA and higher levels of SB (all P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS:

We showed that PA decreased, and SB increased in earlier years than previously thought. MVPA remained relatively stable until 8 years, but revealed a drop-off at 11 years, identifying this period as a crucial time for intervention.

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