The clustering of diet, physical activity and sedentary behavior in children and adolescents: a review

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014 Jan 22;11:4. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-11-4.


Diet, physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior are important, yet modifiable, determinants of obesity. Recent research into the clustering of these behaviors suggests that children and adolescents have multiple obesogenic risk factors. This paper reviews studies using empirical, data-driven methodologies, such as cluster analysis (CA) and latent class analysis (LCA), to identify clustering patterns of diet, PA and sedentary behavior among children or adolescents and their associations with socio-demographic indicators, and overweight and obesity. A literature search of electronic databases was undertaken to identify studies which have used data-driven methodologies to investigate the clustering of diet, PA and sedentary behavior among children and adolescents aged 5-18 years old. Eighteen studies (62% of potential studies) were identified that met the inclusion criteria, of which eight examined the clustering of PA and sedentary behavior and eight examined diet, PA and sedentary behavior. Studies were mostly cross-sectional and conducted in older children and adolescents (≥ 9 years). Findings from the review suggest that obesogenic cluster patterns are complex with a mixed PA/sedentary behavior cluster observed most frequently, but healthy and unhealthy patterning of all three behaviors was also reported. Cluster membership was found to differ according to age, gender and socio-economic status (SES). The tendency for older children/adolescents, particularly females, to comprise clusters defined by low PA was the most robust finding. Findings to support an association between obesogenic cluster patterns and overweight and obesity were inconclusive, with longitudinal research in this area limited. Diet, PA and sedentary behavior cluster together in complex ways that are not well understood. Further research, particularly in younger children, is needed to understand how cluster membership differs according to socio-demographic profile. Longitudinal research is also essential to establish how different cluster patterns track over time and their influence on the development of overweight and obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Socioeconomic Factors