Aims/hypothesis: Physical inactivity is implicated in unfavourable patterns of obesity and cardiometabolic risk in childhood. However, few studies have quantified these associations using objective physical activity measurements in children from different ethnic groups. We examined these associations in UK children of South Asian, black African-Caribbean and white European origin.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of 2,049 primary school children in three UK cities, who had standardised anthropometric measurements, provided fasting blood samples and wore activity monitors for up to 7 days. Data were analysed using multilevel linear regression and allowing for measurement error.
Results: Overall physical activity levels showed strong inverse graded associations with adiposity markers (particularly sum of skinfold thicknesses), fasting insulin, HOMA insulin resistance, triacylglycerol and C-reactive protein; for an increase of 100 counts of physical activity per min of registered time, levels of these factors were 12.2% (95% CI 10.2-14.1%), 10.2% (95% CI 7.5-12.8%), 10.2% (95% CI 7.5-12.8%), 5.8% (95% CI 4.0-7.5%) and 19.2% (95% CI 13.9-24.2%) lower, respectively. Similar increments in physical activity levels were associated with lower diastolic blood pressure (1.0 mmHg, 95% CI 0.6-1.5 mmHg) and LDL-cholesterol (0.04 mmol/l, 95% CI 0.01-0.07 mmol/l), and higher HDL-cholesterol (0.02 mmol/l, 95% CI 0.01-0.04 mmol/l). Moreover, associations were broadly similar in strength in all ethnic groups. All associations between physical activity and cardiometabolic risk factors were reduced (albeit variably) after adjustment for adiposity.
Conclusions/interpretation: Objectively measured physical activity correlates at least as well with obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors in South Asian and African-Caribbean children as in white European children, suggesting that efforts to increase activity levels in such groups would have equally beneficial effects.