Overcoming birth weight: can physical activity mitigate birth weight-related differences in adiposity?

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Individuals born at low or high birth weight (BW) have elevated adiposity. The extent to which physical activity can mitigate this risk is unknown.


The aim of this study was to determine if associations between BW and adiposity vary by self-reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among adolescents.


We used data on adolescents in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999–2006; 12–15 years; n = 4064). Using gender-stratified linear regression, we modelled body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) z-scores as a function of low, normal and high BW, MVPA (weekly Metabolic Equivalent of Task hours) and MVPA*BW cross-product terms, adjusting for sociodemographics, diet and, in WC models, BMI.


Among girls with low MVPA, those born with high BW had greater BMI than normal BW; this difference diminished with greater MVPA (coefficient [95% confidence interval]: low MVPA: 0.72 [0.29, 1.14]; high MVPA: −0.04 [−0.48, 0.39]; P for interaction = 0.05). Among boys, MVPA did not modify the associations between BW and BMI. WC was unrelated to BW, regardless of MVPA.


Findings suggest that effects of high BW in total adiposity can be more easily modified with MVPA in adolescent girls than in boys.

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