Do young people ever sit still? Variations in accelerometer counts, muscle activity and heart rate across various sedentary activities in youth

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Evidence of adverse health effects of TV viewing is stronger than for overall sedentary behaviour in youth. One explanation may be that TV viewing involves less body movement than other sedentary activities. Variations in body movement across sedentary activities are currently unknown, as are age differences in such variations. This study examined body movement differences across various sedentary activities in children and adolescents, assessed by hip-, thigh- and wrist-worn accelerometers, muscle activity and heart rate. Body movement differences between sedentary activities and standing were also examined. Fifty-three children (aged 10–12 years) and 37 adolescents (aged 16–18 years) performed seven different sedentary activities, a standing activity, and a dancing activity (as a control activity) in a controlled setting. Each activity lasted 10 minutes. Participants wore an Actigraph on their hip and both wrists, an activPAL on their thigh and a heart rate monitor. The muscle activity of weight-bearing leg muscles was measured in a subgroup (n = 38) by surface electromyography. Variations in body movement across activities were examined using general estimation equations analysis. Children showed significantly more body movement during sedentary activities and standing than adolescents. In both age groups, screen-based sedentary activities involved less body movement than non-screen-based sedentary activities. This may explain the stronger evidence for detrimental health effects of TV viewing while evidence for child sedentary behaviour in general is inconsistent. Differences in body movement during standing and sedentary activities were relatively small. Future research should examine the potential health effects of differences in body movement between screen-based versus non-screen based and standing versus sedentary activities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1009
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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