Background: Physical activity (PA) is a well-known and underused protective factor for numerous health outcomes, and interventions are hampered by lack of objective data. We combined accelerometers with diaries to estimate the contributions to total activity from different domains throughout the day and week in adolescents.
Methods: Accelerometric and diary data from 1403 adolescents (45% male, mean age 15.6 ± 0.5 years) were combined to evaluate daily levels and domains of sedentary, light, and moderate-to-vigorous activity (MVPA) during a typical week. Freedson's cutoff points were applied to determine levels of activity. Total activity was broken down into school physical education (PE), school outside PE, transportation to school, sport, and other time.
Results: About 2/3 of adolescents' time was spent sedentary, 1/3 in light activity, and about 5% in MVPA. Boys and girls averaged 46 (SD 22) and 38 (23) minutes MVPA per day. Adolescents were most active during leisure sport, spending about 30% of it in MVPA, followed by PE (about 20%) transport to school (14%) and either school class time or other time (3%). PE provided 5% of total MVPA, while leisure sport provided 16% and transportation to school 8%. School was the most sedentary part of the day with over 75% of time outside PE spent sedentary.
Conclusions: These German adolescents were typical of Europeans in showing low levels of physical activity, with significant contributions from leisure sport, transportation and school PE. Leisure sport was the most active part of the day, and participation did not vary significantly by sex, study center (region of Germany) or BMI. Transportation to school was frequent and thus accounted for a significant fraction of total MVPA. This indicates that even in a population with good access to dedicated sporting activities, frequent active transportation can add significantly to total MVPA.