Parents May Overestimate Kids' Physical Activity Levels

September 11, 2008

The use of a parental questionnaire to assess children's physical activity in the United Kingdom appears to dramatically overestimate their true activity levels, according to research published online Sept. 9 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

THURSDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The use of a parental questionnaire to assess children's physical activity in the United Kingdom appears to dramatically overestimate their true activity levels, according to research published online Sept. 9 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Laura Basterfield, Ph.D., of Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K., and colleagues compared results concerning moderate-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) from the parental Health Survey for England questionnaire with measurements from seven-day accelerometry. The study assessed data from 130 children aged 6 and 7.

The parental surveys reported that children spent a mean 146 minutes daily in MVPA, but the accelerometers -- worn on a waist belt during waking hours for a week -- found that children spent 24 minutes daily in MVPA.

"Marked improvements in surveillance of physical activity will be necessary in order to meet the major public health challenges of the 21st century, particularly where physical activity has been implicated in the etiology of diseases such as obesity and related disorders. In practice, improved surveillance of population physical activity in future should mean the use of objective measurement with accelerometry, and from 2008 the English Health Survey plans to survey physical activity in children both subjectively and objectively using Actigraph accelerometry, as is the case in recent national surveys in the USA," the authors write.

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