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Early Life Experience Has Little Bearing on Later Activity

Physical activity of mother among a few modest associations noted in British study

MONDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Few characteristics of early childhood are reliable predictors of physical activity in 11- and 12-year-old children, according to a report published Nov. 23 in BMJ Online First.

Calum Mattocks, a research associate at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues followed children whose mothers had participated in the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children between 1991-1992. Mothers, their partners and eventually their children answered questionnaires regarding health, lifestyle and social circumstances. At age 11, the children were asked to wear an actigraph accelerometer for a period of one week in order to measure physical activity. The study sample consisted of 5,451 children (2,593 boys and 2,858 girls).

Among factors showing a modest association with physical activity in childhood were the mother's body mass index before pregnancy, the mother's physical activity during pregnancy, parity and season of birth. None of the indicators of physical activity at age 0-2 years (activity at 6 months or time outside at 24 months) was associated with later physical activity.

The findings "may have implications when developing guidelines for interventions to increase physical activity, as focusing on modifiable early life factors may have only a modest effect on later levels of physical activity. We have shown that children are slightly more active if their parents are active early in the child's life," the authors write. "Encouraging physical activity in parents may also influence their children to become more active, with the added advantage that physically active parents are healthier."

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