Objective: To determine the association between physical activity (PA) intensities and cardiometabolic risk factors in youth.
Design: Cross-sectional study using data from the 2008 Healthy Hearts Prospective Cohort Study of Physical Activity and Cardiometabolic Health in Youth.
Setting: Rural and urban communities in Alberta, Canada.
Participants: A convenience sample of 605 youth aged 9 to 17 years. Youth were on average aged 12.1 years, 248 were boys (41%), and 157 were overweight or obese (26%).
Main exposure: Actical accelerometer-measured PA intensity.
Main outcomes measures: The primary outcome was body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) z score. Secondary outcome measures included waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, and cardiorespiratory fitness (maximal oxygen consumption [[Vdot]O2max]).
Results: Body mass index z score, waist circumference, and systolic blood pressure decreased and [Vdot]O2max increased in a dose-response manner across tertiles of vigorous PA (adjusted P < .001). No significant differences in cardiometabolic risk factors were seen across tertiles of moderate or light PA in multivariable analyses. Achieving more than 7 minutes of vigorous PA daily was associated with a reduced adjusted odds ratio of overweight status (0.56; 95% CI, 0.33-0.95) and elevated systolic blood pressure (0.36; 95% CI, 0.16-0.79). The odds of overweight status and elevated blood pressure decreased with increasing time and intensity of PA.
Conclusions: Only vigorous PA was consistently associated with lower levels of waist circumference, body mass index z score, systolic blood pressure, and increased cardiorespiratory fitness in youth. These findings underscore the importance of vigorous PA in guidelines for children and adolescents.