Background: Physical inactivity is increasing among children and adolescents and may be contributing to the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. This study examines physical activity and sedentary behavior patterns, and explores associations with individual, maternal, household, and community factors amongst rural South African adolescents.
Methods: In 2009, 381 subjects, stratified by ages 11-12-years and 14-15-years, were randomly selected from 3511 children and adolescents who had participated in a growth survey two years previously. Weight and height were measured and self-reported Tanner pubertal stage was collected. A questionnaire quantifying frequency and duration of physical activity (PA) domains and sedentary time for the previous 12 months was administered. Moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA mins/wk) was calculated for time spent in school and club sport. Socio-demographic and other related data were included from the Agincourt health and socio-demographic system (HDSS). The Agincourt HDSS was established in 1992 and collects prospective data on the community living in the Agincourt sub-district of Mpumalanga Province in rural north-east South Africa.
Results: Puberty, maternal education and socio-economic status (SES) contributed significantly to the mulitiple linear regression model for sedentary behavior (R2 = 0.199; adjusted R2 = 0.139; p < 0.000), and sex, SES and maternal education contributed to the tobit regression model for school and club sport MVPA (p < 0.000). MVPA, calculated from school and club sport, was higher in boys than girls (p < 0.001), and informal activity was lower (boys: p < 0.05 and girls: p < 0.01) while sedentary time was higher (girls: p < 0.01) in the older than the younger groups. Ninety-two percent (92%) of the sample reported walking for transport.
Conclusions: In this study of rural South African adolescent boys and girls, SES at the maternal, household and community level independently predicted time spent in sedentary behaviors, and school and club MVPA. This study provides local data that can be used to develop health promotion strategies specific to this community, and other similar communities in developing countries.