Frequency and duration of physical activity bouts in school-aged children: A comparison within and between days

Hannah L Brooke, Andrew J Atkin, Kirsten Corder, Soren Brage, Esther MF van Sluijs

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Understanding how physical activity (PA) patterns vary within and between days may guide PA promotion in young people. We aimed to 1) describe and compare the frequency (bouts/day) and duration (min/bout) of bouts of moderate-to-vigorous intensity PA (MVPA) on weekdays vs. weekends and in-school vs. out-of-school, and 2) assess associations of bout frequency and duration in these time-segments with overall PA. We used cross-sectional accelerometer data from 2737 children (aged 6-19 years) in the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2006. A bout was defined as MVPA (≥ 2000 counts per minute [cpm]) lasting ≥ 3 min. Adjusted Wald tests were used to assess differences in bout characteristics between time-segments. Linear regression was used to examine the association of time-segment specific bout characteristics with daily minutes of MVPA and PA volume (average cpm). Bout frequency was higher on weekdays than weekends (median [IQR] 4.3 [2.2-7.2] vs. 3.0 [1.0-6.5] bouts/day, p < 0.001); however, bout duration did not differ (4.7 [4.0-5.7] vs. 4.5 [3.7-5.8] min/bout, p = 0.33). More bouts were accumulated out-of-school compared with in-school (2.2 [1.0-4.0] vs. 1.8 [0.8-3.2] bouts/day, p < 0.001), but bout duration was similar (4.7 [3.8-5.8] vs. 4.5 [3.8-5.7] min/bout, p = 0.158). For all time-segments, the frequency and duration of bouts of MVPA were independently and positively associated with overall MVPA and PA volume. In conclusion, the characteristics of children's PA vary within and between days; accounting for this in intervention design may improve future interventions. However, increasing bout frequency or duration in any time-segment may be beneficial for overall PA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-590
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
Early online date26 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Physical activity
  • Accelerometry
  • Patterns
  • Bouts
  • Time-segments
  • Intervention design
  • Children
  • Adolescents

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