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Open Access Research

A cross-sectional study of the individual, social, and built environmental correlates of pedometer-based physical activity among elementary school children

Gavin R McCormack1*, Billie Giles-Corti2, Anna Timperio3, Georgina Wood2 and Karen Villanueva2

Author Affiliations

1 Population Health Intervention Research Centre, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

2 Centre for Built Environment, School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, Australia

3 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:30  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-30

Published: 12 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Children who participate in regular physical activity obtain health benefits. Preliminary pedometer-based cut-points representing sufficient levels of physical activity among youth have been established; however limited evidence regarding correlates of achieving these cut-points exists. The purpose of this study was to identify correlates of pedometer-based cut-points among elementary school-aged children.

Method

A cross-section of children in grades 5-7 (10-12 years of age) were randomly selected from the most (n = 13) and least (n = 12) 'walkable' public elementary schools (Perth, Western Australia), stratified by socioeconomic status. Children (n = 1480; response rate = 56.6%) and parents (n = 1332; response rate = 88.8%) completed a survey, and steps were collected from children using pedometers. Pedometer data were categorized to reflect the sex-specific pedometer-based cut-points of ≥15000 steps/day for boys and ≥12000 steps/day for girls. Associations between socio-demographic characteristics, sedentary and active leisure-time behavior, independent mobility, active transportation and built environmental variables - collected from the child and parent surveys - and meeting pedometer-based cut-points were estimated (odds ratios: OR) using generalized estimating equations.

Results

Overall 927 children participated in all components of the study and provided complete data. On average, children took 11407 ± 3136 steps/day (boys: 12270 ± 3350 vs. girls: 10681 ± 2745 steps/day; p < 0.001) and 25.9% (boys: 19.1 vs. girls: 31.6%; p < 0.001) achieved the pedometer-based cut-points.

After adjusting for all other variables and school clustering, meeting the pedometer-based cut-points was negatively associated (p < 0.05) with being male (OR = 0.42), parent self-reported number of different destinations in the neighborhood (OR 0.93), and a friend's (OR 0.62) or relative's (OR 0.44, boys only) house being at least a 10-minute walk from home. Achieving the pedometer-based cut-points was positively associated with participating in screen-time < 2 hours/day (OR 1.88), not being driven to school (OR 1.48), attending a school located in a high SES neighborhood (OR 1.33), the average number of steps among children within the respondent's grade (for each 500 step/day increase: OR 1.29), and living further than a 10-minute walk from a relative's house (OR 1.69, girls only).

Conclusions

Comprehensive multi-level interventions that reduce screen-time, encourage active travel to/from school and foster a physically active classroom culture might encourage more physical activity among children.

Keywords:
walkability; youth; obesity; socioeconomic status; environment