Patterns of adolescent physical activity and dietary behaviours

Natalie Pearson, Andrew J Atkin, Stuart JH Biddle, Trish Gorely, Charlotte Edwardson

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Background: The potential synergistic effects of multiple dietary and physical activity behaviours on the risk of chronic conditions and health outcomes is a key issue for public health. This study examined the prevalence and clustering patterns of multiple health behaviours among a sample of adolescents in the UK.  

Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 176 adolescents aged 12-16 years (49% boys). Adolescents wore accelerometers for seven days and completed a questionnaire assessing fruit, vegetable, and breakfast consumption. The prevalence of adolescents meeting the physical activity (>/= 60 minutes moderate-to-vigorous physical activity/day), fruit and vegetable (>/= 5 portions of FV per day) and breakfast recommendations (eating breakfast on >/= 5 days per week), and clustering patterns of these health behaviours are described. 

Results: Boys were more active than girls (p < 0.001) and younger adolescents were more active than older adolescents (p < 0.01). Boys ate breakfast on more days per week than girls (p < 0.01) and older adolescents ate more fruit and vegetables than younger adolescents (p < 0.01). Almost 54% of adolescents had multiple risk behaviours and only 6% achieved all three of the recommendations. Girls had significantly more risk factors than boys (p < 0.01). For adolescents with two risk behaviours, the most prevalent cluster was formed by not meeting the physical activity and fruit and vegetable recommendations. 

Conclusion: Many adolescents fail to meet multiple diet and physical activity recommendations, highlighting that physical activity and dietary behaviours do not occur in isolation. Future research should investigate how best to achieve multiple health behaviour change in adolescent boys and girls.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2009

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