Socioeconomic factors affect physical activity and obesity in childhood

June 6, 2009
RheumatologyNetwork Staff

The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine, The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine Vol 26 No 6, Volume 26, Issue 6

Levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in adolescence-a factor often associated with obesity, as well as morbidity and mortality in adulthood-show consistent patterns of change in relation to patient age, sex, social class, and geographical area. In countries where the influence of social class is less strong, there may be a moderating effect of context in the development of PA habits acquired in childhood.

Levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in adolescence-a factor often associated with obesity, as well as morbidity and mortality in adulthood-show consistent patterns of change in relation to patient age, sex, social class, and geographical area. In countries where the influence of social class is less strong, there may be a moderating effect of context in the development of PA habits acquired in childhood.

Borraccino and colleagues examined patterns of MVPA and sedentary behavior (SB) in preteens and adolescents from 32 countries. The investigators also checked whether a child's socioeconomic status or SB affects the amount of time each week he or she engages in MVPA. Some consistent patterns emerged:

•Girls were less physically active than boys.
•MVPA decreased significantly with age in both sexes.
•No children exercised enough to meet PA guidelines (PAGLs): at least 60 minutes of MVPA, 5 days per week. The risk of not meeting PAGLs was unrelated to the time spent in sedentary activities.
•In most countries, the poorest children spent the least time in MVPA. Only in 7 of the 32 countries did the family's socioeconomic status not influence the level of MVPA reported by adolescents.

The authors noted that more study is needed in this area.