Introduction: Sporting activities differ in their ability to promote moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). To assess adolescents' engagement in sport under field conditions we used accelerometers to measure their MVPA levels during sport. We pay special attention to differences between team and individual sport and between common sports.
Methods: Diary data and 7-day accelerometry from 1054 Germans ages 15-17 were combined to measure physical activity. 1373 diaried episodes of more than 40 common sports were identified from 626 participants and grouped into team and individual sport. We modeled the effect of team and individual sport, and described levels of MVPA and episodes of no MVPA for all recorded sports.
Results: German boys and girls averaged 43 (SD 21) and 37 (SD 24) minutes MVPA per day. Boys got 2.2 times as much MVPA per minute during team compared to individual sport (p<0.0001) but there was no significant difference for girls. Percent of time spent in MVPA during sport ranged from 6% for weight training to 74% for jogging, with individual sports averaging 10-30% and team sports 30-50%. 11% of sport episodes had no MVPA: half of episodes of cycling, 5% of jogging, and none for tennis or badminton. An episode of individual sport was 17 times more likely to have no MVPA than an episode of team sport (p<0.0001).
Conclusion: Under field condition, adolescents were active for only a fraction of diaried sporting time. As measured by accelerometry, individual sport often produced no MVPA. Characteristics of the sport, such as team vs. individual, were more predictive of MVPA than were characteristics of the participant, such as background activity levels.