Research Study Abstract

Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time during Childhood, Adolescence and Young Adulthood: A Cohort Study

  • Published on April 23, 2013

Background: To know how moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary time change across lifespan periods is needed for designing successful lifestyle interventions. We aimed to study changes in objectively measured (accelerometry) MVPA and sedentary time from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to young adulthood.

Methods: Estonian and Swedish participants from the European Youth Heart Study aged 9 and 15 years at baseline (N = 2312) were asked to participate in a second examination 6 (Sweden) to 9/10 (Estonia) years later. 1800 participants with valid accelerometer data were analyzed.

Results: MVPA decreased from childhood to adolescence (−1 to −2.5 min/d per year of follow-up, P = 0.01 and <0.001, for girls and boys respectively) and also from adolescence to young adulthood (−0.8 to −2.2 min/d per year, P = 0.02 and <0.001 for girls and boys, respectively). Sedentary time increased from childhood to adolescence (+15 and +20 min/d per year, for girls and boys respectively, P<0.001), with no substantial change from adolescence to young adulthood. Changes in both MVPA and sedentary time were greater in Swedish than in Estonian participants and in boys than in girls. The magnitude of the change observed in sedentary time was 3–6 time larger than the change observed in MVPA.

Conclusions: The decline in MVPA (overall change = 30 min/d) and increase sedentary time (overall change = 2:45 h/d) observed from childhood to adolescence are of concern and might increase the risk of developing obesity and other chronic diseases later in life. These findings substantially contribute to understand how key health-related behaviors (physical activity and sedentary) change across important periods of life.


  • Francisco B. Ortega 1, 2
  • Kenn Konstabel 3, 4
  • Elena Pasquali 5
  • Jonatan R. Ruiz 1, 2
  • Anita Hurtig-Wennlöf 6
  • Jarek Mäestu 7
  • Marie Löf 2
  • Jaanus Harro 4
  • Rino Bellocco 8, 9
  • Idoia Labayen 10
  • Toomas Veidebaum 11
  • Michael Sjöström 2


  • 1

    “PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity” research group, Department of Physical Education and Sports, School of Sport Sciences, University of Granada, Granada, Spain

  • 2

    Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at NOVUM, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden

  • 3

    Department of Chronic Diseases, Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, Estonia

  • 4

    Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

  • 5

    Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy

  • 6

    School of Health and Medical Sciences/Clinical Medicine, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden

  • 7

    Department of Coaching Sciences, Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Centre of Behavioral and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

  • 8

    Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

  • 9

    Department of Statistics and Quantitative Methods, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy

  • 10

    Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of the Basque Country, Universidad del País Vasco/European Humanities University, Vitoria, Spain

  • 11

    National Institute for Health Development, Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Tallinn, Estonia




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