Open Access Open Badges Research

Longitudinal patterns of physical activity in children aged 8 to 12 years: the LOOK study

Rohan M Telford1*, Richard D Telford23, Ross B Cunningham4, Thomas Cochrane1, Rachel Davey1 and Gordon Waddington5

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Research and Action in Public Health, University of Canberra, Bruce ACT 2617, Australia

2 Medical School, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

3 Academic Unit of Internal Medicine, Canberra Hospital, Canberra ACT 2606, Australia

4 Fenner School of Environment and Society, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

5 Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Bruce ACT 2617, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:81  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-81

Published: 21 June 2013



Data on longitudinal monitoring of daily physical activity (PA) patterns in youth over successive years is scarce but may provide valuable information for intervention strategies aiming to promote PA.


Participants were 853 children (starting age ~8 years) recruited from 29 Australian elementary schools. Pedometers were worn for a 7-day period each year over 5 consecutive years to assess PA volume (steps per day) and accelerometers were worn concurrently in the final 2 years to assess PA volume (accelerometer counts (AC) per day), moderate and vigorous PA (MVPA), light PA (LPA) and sedentary time (SED). A general linear mixed model was used to examine daily and yearly patterns.


A consistent daily pattern of pedometer step counts, AC, MVPA and LPA emerged during each year, characterised by increases on school days from Monday to Friday followed by a decrease on the weekend. Friday was the most active and Sunday the least active day. The percentage of girls and boys meeting international recommendations of 11,000 and 13,000 steps/day respectively on a Monday, Friday and Sunday were 36%, 50%, 21% for boys and 35%, 45%, 18% for girls. The equivalent percentages meeting the recommended MVPA of >60 min/day on these days were 29%, 39%, 16% for boys and 15%, 21%, 10% for girls. Over the 5 years, boys were more active than girls (mean steps/day of 10,506 vs 8,750; p<0.001) and spent more time in MVPA (mean of 42.8 vs 31.1 min/day; p<0.001). Although there was little evidence of any upward or downward trend in steps/day from age 8 to 12 years, there was a trend toward lower MVPA, LPA and a corresponding increase in SED from age 11 to 12 years.


A weekly pattern of PA occurred in children as young as age 8 on a day by day basis; these patterns persisting through to age 12. In addition to supporting previous evidence of insufficient PA in children, our data, in identifying the level and incidence of insufficiency on each day of the week, may assist in the development of more specific strategies to increase PA in community based children.

Longitudinal; Physical activity; Children; Patterns; Habitual; Recommendations; Trends; Daily; Pedometers; Accelerometers