Sedentary Behaviour and Telomere Length Shortening during Early Childhood: Evidence from the Multicentre Prospective INMA Cohort Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Mar 14;20(6):5134. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20065134.


Sedentary behaviour (SB) may be related to telomere length (TL) attrition due to a possible pro-inflammatory effect. This study examined the association between parent-reported sedentary behaviour (SB) and leukocyte TL at the age of 4 and telomere tracking from 4 to 8 years. In the Spanish birth cohort Infancia y Medio Ambiente (INMA) project, we analysed data from children who attended follow-up visits at age 4 (n = 669) and 8 (n = 530). Multiple robust regression models were used to explore the associations between mean daily hours of SB (screen time, other sedentary activities, and total SB) at 4 years categorised into tertiles and TL at 4 years and difference in TL rank between age 4 and 8, respectively. At the age of 4, the results showed that children with the highest screen time (1.6-5.0 h/day) had a shorter TL of -3.9% (95% CI: -7.4, -0.4; p = 0.03) compared with children in the lowest tertile (0.0-1.0 h/day). Between 4 and 8 years, a higher screen time (highest tertile group vs. lowest tertile) was associated with a decrease in the LTL rank of -1.9% (95% CI: -3.8, -0.1; p = 0.03) from 4 to 8 years. Children exposed to a higher screen time at 4 years were more prone to have shorter TL at 4 and between 4 and 8 years of age. This study supports the potential negative effect of SB during childhood on cellular longevity.

Keywords: cellular longevity; children; epigenetics; genetics; lifestyle; screen time.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Telomere*

Grants and funding

This research was funded by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III/Agencia Estatal de Investigación (PI18/00825: “Dieta y actividad física en embarazo y tras el nacimiento y longitud del telómero en niños y adolescentes: Proyecto TeloDiPA” and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF): “Una manera de hacer Europa”); the Generalitat Valenciana (GVA/2021/191, CIAICO/2021/132); the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (FIS-PI09/00090, PI04/2018, PI09/02311, PI13/02429, PI16/1288, PI18/00909, PI19/1338 and FIS-PI18/01142 incl. ERFD funds, PS20/0006), the Department of Health of the Basque Government (2013111089); the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (FIS-PI13/02187 and FIS-PI18/01142 incl. ERFD funds), the Department of Health of the Basque Government (2015111065), and the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa (DFG15/221) and annual agreements with the municipalities of the study area (Zumarraga, Urretxu, Legazpi, Azkoitia y Azpeitia y Beasain); Obra Social Cajastur/Fundación Liberbank and Universidad de Oviedo; and Gobierno de España through Ministerio de Universidades under the grants CAS21/00008 and NextGenerationEU. DPB was supported by the Miguel Hernández University (Ayudas Movilidad Internacional 2021, Erasmus+ 2021) during the development of this study. In addition, DM holds a postdoctoral grant by the Flemish Scientific Fund (FWO grant 12X9620N). The funders had no role in the design of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval and submission of the manuscript. The APC was funded by PI18/00825.