Time spent in sedentary behavior and changes in childhood BMI: a longitudinal study from ages 9 to 15 years

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To determine if time spent in objectively measured sedentary behavior is associated with a change in body mass index (BMI) between ages 9 and 15 years, adjusting for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA).


Prospective observational study of children at ages 9 (2000), 11 (2002), 12 (2003) and 15 years (2006). Longitudinal quantile regression was used to model the influence of predictors on changes at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th BMI percentiles over time.


Participants were enrolled in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development and include both boys and girls (n =789).


Objectively measured BMI (kg m-2) was the outcome variable and objectively measured sedentary behavior was the main predictor. Adjustment was also made for MVPA, gender, race, maternal education, hours of sleep and healthy eating index.


Increases in BMI were observed at all percentiles, with the greatest increase observed at the 90th BMI percentile. Spending more time in sedentary behavior (h per day) was associated with additional increases in BMI at the 90th, 75th and 50th BMI percentiles, independent of MVPA and the other covariates (90th percentile = 0.59, 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 0.19-0.98 kg m-2; 75th percentile = 0.48, 95% CI: 0.25-0.72 kg m-2; and 50th percentile = 0.19, 95% CI: 0.05-0.33 kg m-2). No associations were observed between sedentary behavior and changes at the 25th and 10th BMI percentiles.


Sedentary behavior was associated with greater increases in BMI at the 90th, 75th and 50th BMI percentiles between ages 9 and 15 years, independent of MVPA. Preventing an increase in sedentary behavior from childhood to adolescence may contribute to reducing the number of children classified as obese.

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