Physical activity and sedentary behavior in Belgium (BNFCS2014): design, methods and expected outcomes

Arch Public Health. 2016 Oct 17;74:44. doi: 10.1186/s13690-016-0156-6. eCollection 2016.


Background: There is strong evidence to indicate that regular moderate intensity physical activity is associated with health benefits. Furthermore, sedentary behavior has been related with an increased risk for all-cause mortality. The accurate measurement of physical activity and sedentary behavior is therefore vital to evaluate their health impact and provide evidence for the development of public health recommendations. This paper describes the methodology used for assessing physical activity and sedentary behavior in the Belgian population in the context of the Belgian National Food Consumption Survey 2014 (BNFCS2014).

Results: Data about physical activity and sedentary behavior were collected as part of the cross-sectional BNFCS2014 between February 2014 and May 2015. A nationally-representative sample of children (3-9 years) and adolescents (10-17 years) were asked to wear an accelerometer (Actigraph® GT3X) during their waking hours for 7 consecutive days. Data were recorded in 15-second epochs and respondents with at least 2 valid week days (i.e., 10 h of wear-time) and 1 valid week-end day (i.e., 8 h of wear-time) were retained for the analyses. The Evenson cut points were used to assess the time spent in each physical activity intensity level: sedentary, low, moderate and vigorous. Complementary, diaries were provided to register the activities performed when the accelerometer was removed; these activities were added to the measures provided by the accelerometers. In addition, age-specific self-reported questionnaires (ToyBox and FPAQ) were completed to provide contextual information about the type of activities performed. Due to financial constraints, physical activity in adults (18-64 years) was assessed and described through the self-reported International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ long version) only.

Conclusion: Data were collected in the context of the BNFCS2014 to provide a comprehensive picture of the physical activity and sedentary behavior in the Belgian population, with a special focus on children (3-9 years) and adolescents (10-17 years). Levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior can be compared to international guidelines and analyzed according to several background variables, such as age, gender, Body Mass Index, education level and region. Such results are aimed to underpin future policies in the field of physical activity.

Keywords: Accelerometer; Physical activity; Sedentary behavior; Self-reported questionnaire.