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Sedentary behaviors, physical activity behaviors, and body fat in 6-year-old children: the Generation R Study

Anne I Wijtzes12*, Selma H Bouthoorn12, Wilma Jansen23, Oscar H Franco4, Albert Hofman14, Vincent WV Jaddoe145 and Hein Raat2

Author Affiliations

1 The Generation R Study Group, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Public Health, Erasmus Medical Center, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, 3000, CA, The Netherlands

3 Department of Social Development, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

4 Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

5 Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:96  doi:10.1186/s12966-014-0096-x

Published: 15 August 2014



Childhood overweight and obesity is a major public health concern. Knowledge on modifiable risk factors is needed to design effective intervention programs. This study aimed to assess associations of children’s sedentary behaviors (television viewing and computer game use) and physical activity behaviors (sports participation, outdoor play, and active transport to/from school) with three indicators of body fat, i.e., percent fat mass, body mass index (BMI) standard deviation scores, and weight status (normal weight, overweight).


Cross-sectional data from 5913 6-year-old ethnically diverse children were analyzed. Children’s weight and height were objectively measured and converted to BMI. Weight status was defined according to age- and sex-specific cut-off points of the International Obesity Task Force. BMI standard deviation scores were created, based on Dutch reference growth curves. Fat mass was measured my dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Sedentary and physical activity behaviors were assessed by parent-reported questionnaires. Series of logistic and linear regression analyses were performed, controlling for confounders (i.e., socio-demographic factors, family lifestyle factors, and other sedentary behaviors and physical activity behaviors).


Sports participation was inversely associated with fat mass (p < 0.001), even after adjustment for socio-demographic factors, family lifestyle factors, and other sedentary behaviors and physical activity behaviors. No other independent associations were observed.


The results of this study indicate that sports participation is inversely associated with percent body fat among ethnically diverse 6-year-old children. More research in varied populations including objective measurements and longitudinal designs are needed to confirm these current results.

Body fat; Overweight; Lifestyle; Physical activity; Sedentary; Children