Background: Childhood overweight/obesity and inadequate physical activity burden Western countries, and now, pose a growing threat to the health of children in low and middle income countries. Behavioural transitions toward more sedentary lifestyles coupled with increased consumption of high calorie foods has resulted in rising proportions of overweight/obesity and decreasing levels of physical activity in school-aged children. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and to investigate factors associated with overweight/obesity and physical activity in Kenyan children aged 9 to 11 years.
Methods: Body composition and physical activity measures of participating children were accomplished by anthropometric assessment, accelerometry, and administration of questionnaires related to diet and lifestyle, and the school and neighbourhood environments. Data collection was conducted in the city of Nairobi as part of a larger International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and Environment.
Results: A total of 563 participants (46.5% boys, 53.5% girls) were included in the analyses. Of these, 3.7% were underweight, 14.4% were overweight, and 6.4% were obese based on WHO cut-points. Mean daily sedentary time was 398 minutes, time spent in light physical activity was 463 minutes, and time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was 36 minutes based on activity cut-points developed by Treuth et al. Only 12.6% of participating children were meeting the recommendation of ≥ 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and 45.7% of participants used active transportation to/from school. Increasing parental education level, total annual household income, and attending a private rather than public school were associated positively with being overweight/obese and negatively with meeting physical activity guidelines.
Conclusions: This study provided the evidence for an existing prevalence of childhood overweight/obesity in Nairobi. Children were spending a considerable amount of time in sedentary and light intensity physical activity, with few meeting physical activity guidelines. Higher socioeconomic status and parental education attainment were associated with a higher likelihood of children being overweight/obese and a lower likelihood of children meeting the physical activity recommendations. Interventions and strategies should be attentive to the potential health consequences of lifestyle transitions resulting from urbanisation and economic prosperity.