Does birth weight influence physical activity in youth? A combined analysis of four studies using objectively measured physical activity

PLoS One. 2011 Jan 12;6(1):e16125. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016125.


Animal models suggest growth restriction in utero leads to lower levels of motor activity. Furthermore, individuals with very low birth weight report lower levels of physical activity as adults. The aim of this study was to examine whether birth weight acts as a biological determinant of physical activity and sedentary time. This study uses combined analysis of three European cohorts and one from South America (n = 4,170). Birth weight was measured or parentally reported. Height and weight were measured and used to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI). PA was objectively measured using accelerometry for ≥3 days, ≥10 hours day. Data was standardized to allow comparisons between different monitors. Total physical activity was assessed as counts per minute (cpm), with time spent above moderate activity (MVPA) >2,000 counts and time spent sedentary (<100 counts). There was no evidence for an association between birth weight and total physical activity (p = 0.9) or MVPA (p = 0.7). Overall there was no evidence for an association between birth weight and sedentary time (p = 0.8). However in the Pelotas study we did find an association between higher birth weight (kg) and lower overall physical activity (cpm) (β = -31, 95%CI: -58, -46, p = 0.03) and higher birth weight and greater sedentary time (mins/day) (β = 16.4, 95%CI: 5.3, 27.5, p = 0.004), although this was attenuated and no longer significant with further adjustment for gestational age. Overall this combined analysis suggests that birth weight may not be an important biological determinant of habitual physical activity or sedentary behaviour in children and adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Birth Weight / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • South America