Objective: To examine the relationships among indicators of physical activity, physical fitness, and body composition with serum lipid and lipoprotein levels in young children.
Design: Cross-sectional and 1-year prospective cohort.
Setting: Studies of Child Activity and Nutrition (SCAN) program, Galveston, Tex.
Subjects: One hundred twenty-three 4- or 5-year-old black, Hispanic (of Mexican origin), and white children.
Measurements: Body composition, resting heart rate, and cardiovascular fitness variables and serum lipid and lipoprotein levels were measured at age 3 or 4 years (study year 1) and at age 4 or 5 years (study year 2), and day-long heart rate was measured and the Children's Activity Rating Scale was administered between study years 1 and 2.
Results: Year-1 waist/hip ratios were inversely correlated with total serum cholesterol (TSC) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Mean activity level was inversely correlated with waist/hip ratios. On the basis of multiple regression analysis, the sum of seven skin-fold measurements, height, and gender explained 15.4% of the variation in triglyceride levels. The sum of seven skin-fold measurements was inversely correlated with the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level. Resting heart rate, waist/hip ratio, and the slope of the exercise heart rate during fitness testing explained 19.5% of the variation in the concentration of an HDL subclass, HDL2. These children's levels of physical activity were associated with higher fitness levels. Year-1 waist/hip ratios and year-2 sum of seven skin-fold measurements were positively correlated with the LDL/HDL and TSC/HDL ratios.
Conclusion: Higher levels of cardiovascular fitness and lower levels of fatness were associated with more favorable serum lipid and lipoprotein levels in these young children. Physical activity appeared to have an indirect association with serum lipid and lipoprotein values through its relationship with higher fitness levels and lower levels of fatness.