Background: The prevalence and level of overweight in childhood is rapidly increasing. One potential contributor to the rise in overweight is a decline in physical activity (PA). The purpose of this study was to compare levels and patterns of PA and PA related personality in normal-weight (NW) and overweight (OW) 6- to 10-yr-old children.
Methods: Subjects were grouped into OW (N = 59, BMI = 24.2 +/- 4.8 kg/m2) or NW (N = 61, BMI = 15.7 +/- 1.5 kg/m2) according to International Obesity Task Force cut-offs. PA was assessed by accelerometry. Parents filled in a questionnaire on PA and sedentary behaviour and PA related personality of their child (born tired, moves slowly, is often tired, lacks energy, avoids physical efforts, prefers watching playing children instead of joining them, is always active, needs to let himself/herself go, has a lot of energy).
Results: NW children spent on average 77 min/day in MVPA, whereas OW children only 57 min/day (p = .001). OW children had fewer 5, 10 and 20 min bouts of MVPA (p = .01). OW and NW children showed identical PA patterns on both week days and weekends, although at different levels. According to parents' report, a greater percentage of OW children was not engaged in any sport (46% versus 23%, chi2 = 6.3, p = .01). OW children had a less active personality (p < .001), watched more TV during weekend (p < .01), but no differences were found in outside play or non-active play. BMI of mother and father explained 29% of the variance in children's BMI z-score (p < .001). PA related personality, screen behaviour during weekend and MVPA explained an additional 12% (p < 0.01).
Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate that NW children spent on average 20 min per day more in MVPA. PA patterns were similar in NW versus OW children, although at different levels. Greatest differences in PA according to weight status were found in the afternoon during after school hours. This is the first study to show distinct PA related personality traits in OW children compared to NW peers.