Aim: To undertake a review of the methods and findings of published research evaluating the influence of season on accelerometer-determined sedentary behaviour (SB) and physical activity (PA) in children.
Methods: A literature search was carried out using PubMed, Embase, Medline and Web of Science up to, and including, June 2011. The search strategy focused on four key elements: children, SB or PA, season and accelerometer. Articles were eligible for inclusion if they were published in English, included healthy study participants aged ≤ 18 years, reported at least one outcome variable derived from accelerometer-determined measurements, and compared SB or PA between two or more seasons, or controlled for season of measurement. Eligible papers were reviewed and evidence tables compiled reporting on publication year, country studied, study recruitment, consent rate, sample descriptives, study design, accelerometer protocol, valid accelerometer data receipt, season definition, statistical methods and key findings.
Results: Sixteen of 819 articles were eligible for inclusion: children aged two to five years, six to twelve, or six to 18 years were included in five, six and five articles respectively. Six articles were from the UK, six from other European countries, three from the USA and one from New Zealand. Study sample sizes ranged from 64 to 5595. PA was reported in all articles but SB in only three. Only four studies were longitudinal and none of these reported SB. Seasonal variation in PA was reported in all UK studies, being highest in summer and lowest in winter. In four non-UK studies seasonal variation in PA was not found. Findings were inconclusive for SB.
Conclusion: There is sufficient evidence to support public health interventions aimed at increasing PA during winter in UK children. No conclusions can be drawn regarding the effect of season on children's SB reflecting few studies of small sample size, lack of repeat measures, incomparable definitions of season and inconsistent accelerometer protocols. Future research should determine factors that drive seasonal patterns in PA and SB in children such as age, sex, and geographic and climatic setting to inform interventions and target populations.