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The pattern of physical activity and how it relates to health in boys
Stone, Michelle Rolande
Date: 27 April 2009
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Sport and Health Sciences
Previous reports have demonstrated that children’s physical activity is typically intermittent in nature. Accelerometers are reliable and valid tools for quantifying the pattern of activity in children. However, in order to interpret accelerometer output it is necessary to apply appropriate accelerometer thresholds for classifying ...
Previous reports have demonstrated that children’s physical activity is typically intermittent in nature. Accelerometers are reliable and valid tools for quantifying the pattern of activity in children. However, in order to interpret accelerometer output it is necessary to apply appropriate accelerometer thresholds for classifying physical activity intensity. Currently multiple accelerometer thresholds are available in the literature and it is unclear which are the most appropriate or whether thresholds should be sample specific. Additionally, there is little information regarding how the pattern of activity in children varies across groups and how activity patterns relate to health. The overall aim of the thesis was to describe the pattern of habitual physical activity, using objectively-measured physical activity data, in relation to health outcomes in pre-adolescent boys. The first objective was to characterize the pattern of boys’ habitual physical activity, using objectively-measured physical activity data. The second objective was to investigate the relationship between habitual physical activity and specific aspects of the activity pattern and health outcomes in boys. The final objective was to investigate the effects of continuously- versus intermittently- accumulated physical activity on acute health outcomes in boys, using an intermittent activity protocol based on the measured pattern of habitual activity in boys. The first four studies used a sample of 54 boys, aged 8 to 10 years. The final study used a different sample of 10 boys, aged 9 to 11 years. Both samples were from the county of Devon, UK. The first study of this thesis established sample-specific accelerometer-intensity thresholds through calibration research with ActiGraph accelerometers (counts•2s-1) in boys. The second study in the thesis demonstrated that relationships between time accumulated at different activity intensities and health (fatness, peak oxygen consumption and resting blood pressure) in boys were similar irrespective of whether sample-specific or published thresholds were employed as long as the threshold was at least equivalent to a brisk walk (i.e. >4 METs). However, the prevalence of children reported as meeting activity guidelines did differ according to thresholds employed. Study three showed that, despite little difference between overweight and normal weight boys in overall activity, time spent sedentary and minutes of light, moderate and vigorous intensity activity accumulated, aspects of the activity pattern (frequency, intensity and duration of ≥4 s (short) and ≥5-min (long) bouts of ≥light, ≥moderate, ≥vigorous and ≥hard intensity activity) differed by weight status. Overweight boys accumulated fewer and shorter bouts of activity, particularly sustained bouts of activity which were of moderate intensity or greater. Study four examined the relationship between activity pattern and health in boys further, focusing on body fatness, aerobic fitness, blood pressure and microvascular function. Results demonstrated that summary measures of activity were negatively related to body fatness, and positively related with both aerobic fitness (i.e., total, moderate, vigorous and hard activity) and endothelial function (i.e., total and light activity). Time spent sedentary was negatively related to endothelial function. The frequency and duration of activity bouts of ≥moderate intensity and the intensity of all activity bouts (i.e., ≥light intensity) were most important for body fatness and aerobic fitness. The frequency of all bouts (short and long) of at least light intensity was most important for endothelial health. Finally, study five moved away from chronic measures of health and examined the acute physiological effects of the recommended daily amount of physical activity (60 minutes of physical activity of ≥moderate intensity) on postprandial lipaemia and microvascular function in boys the following day. Furthermore, the study aimed to assess whether the effects differed depending on whether the activity was accumulated continuously or in a manner more similar to the children’s typical activity patterns identified in studies 3 and 4. In contrast to findings from adolescents and adults, 60 minutes of >moderate intensity activity did not impact on postprandial lipaemia or microvascular function the following day in healthy, active boys, regardless of how it was accumulated. The results of the present thesis indicate that aspects of the activity pattern are significantly related to health in boys and differ according to type of day and weight status. Furthermore, the benefits of sporadically-accumulated activity are equally as strong as continuously-accumulated activity to body fatness, aerobic fitness and endothelial health in boys. Since children typically accumulate short, intermittent bouts of activity, the promotion of sporadic activity (i.e., in intervention research and current physical activity guidelines for children and youth) might increase enjoyment and adherence. The benefits of acute intermittent exercise (which simulates free-living activity) on postprandial lipaemia and microvascular function in inactive children with risk factors for cardiovascular disease should be investigated. Longitudinal investigations into the activity pattern of a much larger and more age-diverse sample of boys and girls are needed to determine whether any changes in aspects of the activity pattern might alter these and other health outcomes (i.e., cardiovascular risk factors).
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