Research Study Abstract

Light-Intensity Physical Activity and Cardiometabolic Biomarkers in US Adolescents

  • Published on August 9, 2013

Background: The minimal physical activity intensity that would confer health benefits among adolescents is unknown. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations of accelerometer-derived light-intensity (split into low and high) physical activity, and moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity with cardiometabolic biomarkers in a large population-based sample.

Methods: The study is based on 1,731 adolescents, aged 12–19 years from the 2003/04 and 2005/06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Low light-intensity activity (100–799 counts/min), high light-intensity activity (800 counts/min to <4 METs) and moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity (≥4 METs, Freedson age-specific equation) were accelerometer-derived. Cardiometabolic biomarkers, including waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, HDL-cholesterol, and C-reactive protein were measured. Triglycerides, LDL- cholesterol, insulin, glucose, and homeostatic model assessments of β-cell function (HOMA-%B) and insulin sensitivity (HOMA-%S) were also measured in a fasting sub-sample (n = 807).

Results: Adjusted for confounders, each additional hour/day of low light-intensity activity was associated with 0.59 (95% CI: 1.18–0.01) mmHG lower diastolic blood pressure. Each additional hour/day of high light-intensity activity was associated with 1.67 (2.94–0.39) mmHG lower diastolic blood pressure and 0.04 (0.001–0.07) mmol/L higher HDL-cholesterol. Each additional hour/day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity was associated with 3.54 (5.73–1.35) mmHG lower systolic blood pressure, 5.49 (1.11–9.77)% lower waist circumference, 25.87 (6.08–49.34)% lower insulin, and 16.18 (4.92–28.53)% higher HOMA-%S.

Conclusions: Time spent in low light-intensity physical activity and high light-intensity physical activity had some favorable associations with biomarkers. Consistent with current physical activity recommendations for adolescents, moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity had favorable associations with many cardiometabolic biomarkers. While increasing MVPA should still be a public health priority, further studies are needed to identify dose-response relationships for light-intensity activity thresholds to inform future recommendations and interventions for adolescents.


  • Valerie Carson 1
  • Nicola D. Ridgers 2
  • Bethany J. Howard 3
  • Elisabeth A. H. Winkler 4
  • Genevieve N. Healy 4
  • Neville Owen 4,5,6
  • David W. Dunstan 3,4,7,8
  • Jo Salmon 2


  • 1

    Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

  • 2

    Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • 3

    Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • 4

    Cancer Prevention Research Centre, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

  • 5

    Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • 6

    Department of Medicine, Alfred Hospital, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • 7

    School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

  • 8

    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia




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