Measuring Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior in Youth with Type 2 Diabetes

Child Obes. 2017 Feb;13(1):72-77. doi: 10.1089/chi.2015.0151. Epub 2016 Feb 9.


Background: Lifestyle interventions that encourage increasing physical activity (PA) and losing weight are critical for overweight and obese youth with comorbid conditions. Assessing PA within such lifestyle intervention efforts requires measurement tool(s) that are both accurate and appropriate for these youth. This research compares PA levels and sedentary behavior in an ethnically diverse cohort of overweight/obese youth with type 2 diabetes using both accelerometry and a questionnaire previously validated in the general youth population.

Methods: Spearman's correlations were used to compare time spent sedentary and in different PA intensities between a questionnaire, the three-day PA recall (3DPAR), and an objective PA measure, the ActiGraph accelerometer, in 236 overweight/obese youth with diabetes.

Results: Spearman correlations between 3DPAR and accelerometer results for total PA were small and not significant (rho = 0.11, p > 0.05 for males and females). Correlations for specific PA intensities (moderate/vigorous and light) were also small and not significant. Sedentary time between instruments was significant, but weakly correlated in females (rho = 0.19, p < 0.05), but not in males (rho = 0.07, p = 0.48).

Conclusions: Subjective PA measures validated in the general youth population may not be the best method for differentiating levels of movement in overweight/obese youth with type 2 diabetes, who spend most of their time in light-intensity activity and sedentary pursuits with little or no time spent in moderate/vigorous-intensity activities. Objective measures such as accelerometers that can capture the lower end of the movement scale are likely the more appropriate measures under these conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires