Measuring the Physical Activity of Children aged 3 to 7 years
Introduction : Obesity has become epidemic throughout the world and is affecting both adults and children. New Zealand children have a high prevalence of being overweight, with estimates varying between 20% and 30%. Sedentary behaviour (SB) is an important mediator of successful prevention of developing overweight in children. However a reliable objective method for measuring SB is still lacking. Effective prevention of excessive weight gain could flow from having an objective device with a clear definition of SB. Accelerometers are motion sensing devices which have been used to study physical activity (PA) with promising validity in children. As one of the steps in establishing the utility of accelerometers in measuring SB, we aimed to assess the reliability and validity of the Actical accelerometer for its use in 3-7 year old children and to propose an appropriate cut-off that defines SB. Methods : Children (N=50) aged 3-7 year old were recruited in Dunedin, New Zealand, to participate in the study. The study was carried out at the participants’ preschool centre or school. The children were asked to wear the Actical accelerometer around their waist and to perform numerous selected activities of varying levels of intensity. At the same time, participants were video recorded for observational analysis to provide the criterion measure of PA. Activities performed during free play sessions at participants’ preschool centre or school were also measured. Reliability of the Actical accelerometers was assessed daily throughout the data collection phase using a custom-made motion generator. Validity of the accelerometer was assessed by comparing with activity levels measured by direct observation using the Children’s Activity Rating Score (CARS). The appropriate cut-off to define SB was determined by plotting the receiver operating characteristic curve, and the cut-off derived was then cross-validated by comparing with levels of SB measured by using the CARS. Results : Height, weight and BMI distributions of the children assessed (N=49) were comparable with published data on New Zealand children. Reliability tests during the data collection phase revealed high intra-instrument and inter-instrument reliabilities (r p-intra & r p-inter =1.0). Repeated measurements by the same accelerometer gave small differences (<10% at low speed, <5% at and high speeds), whereas differences between accelerometers were greater (34-50% at low speed, <15% at moderate speed and <10% at high speed). Overall, 383 observations on 49 children were made for an average duration of 8.8 minutes. Total observation time across all children was approximately 3,370 minutes. The accelerometer counts for each type of activity were found to be significantly different (p<0.05) and were categorised into four groups: inactivity (Sleep), sedentary level movement (Draw, Play Doh, Puzzle, Read, TV), light level activities (Toy Car), activities of higher intensities (Nintendo Wii and Free Play). Using the receiver operating characteristic curve (area under the curve: 0.843), a cut-off of 40 counts/15s was identified (sensitivity: 88.44% and specificity: 64.63%). For the children assessed by the CARS (N=9), correlation between Actical counts and CARS score was moderate (r p =0.56). The mean difference of percentage of time in sedentary activity judged by accelerometry compared to direct observation using CARS was 8.4%. There were no significant differences in the percentages of sedentary activity between accelerometer data versus CARS (p=0.055). Conclusions : Overall, the study has proposed a cut-off for SB of 40 counts/15s. Despite having obtained moderate correlation with the criterion measure, it appears that this cut-off tends to slightly under predict levels of SB and accurate prediction of SB is limited by sub-optimal inter-instrument agreement. Performance of the Actical could be improved if accurate calibration were possible outside the manufacturer. Utility of the cut-off could be further assessed by conducting a cross-validation of the cut-off with a larger sized sample. Outcome : The results of this study could be used in ongoing studies that use the Actical accelerometers to measure activity in children aged 3 to 7 years.
Advisor: Taylor, Barry; Williams, Sheila; Taylor, Rachael
Degree Name: Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours
Degree Discipline: Health Sciences - Paediatrics and Child Health
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Physical activity; sedentary behaviour; preschool; accelerometer
Research Type: Thesis