Background: People of South Asian (SA) origin have an increased risk of premature coronary heart disease. In children of SA origin, there is an increased prevalence of obesity and evidence of insulin resistance. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease in children often persist into adulthood. Low levels of physical activity are likely to be linked to the rise in obesity.
Objective: To determine levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviours in secondary school pupils in the UK, including comparison of SA and white European (WE) children and those with and without a family history of cardiovascular disease.
Method: Questionnaire survey conducted within an action research study in five inner city secondary schools serving a predominantly SA population.
Results: We obtained 3601 responses from 76% of eligible pupils. WE pupils were more likely to have walked to and from school compared to SAs. However, overall we identified low levels of physical activity and higher levels of inactive behaviours in both ethnic groups. Almost half (46%) of respondents spent four or more hours per day watching television or videos or playing computer games. An overall low level of active behaviour during school breaks was particularly emphasized in girls. We found no evidence of an association between physical activity levels and family history of cardiovascular disease.
Conclusions: There is an urgent need for those with responsibility for young people's health, including parents, schools and community health providers, to consider and address the need for effective interventions to encourage increased physical activity levels.