Assessment of Intensity,
Prevalence and Duration
of Everyday Activities in
Swiss School Children: A
Cross-Sectional Analysis of
Accelerometer and Diary Data
Bettina Bringolf-Isler, Leticia Grize, Urs Mäder, Nicole Ruch,
Felix H. Sennhauser and Charlotte Braun-Fahrländer
Appropriately measuring habitual physical activity (PA) in children is a ma-
jor challenge. Questionnaires and accelerometers are the most widely used
instruments but both have well-known limitations. e aims of this study
A  I, P  D  E A 181
were to determine activity type/mode and to quantify intensity and duration
of children’s everyday PA by combining information of a time activity diary
with accelerometer measurements and to assess dierences by gender and age.
School children (n = 189) aged 6/7 years, 9/10 years and 13/14 years wore
accelerometers during one week in winter 2004 and one in summer 2005.
Simultaneously, they completed a newly developed time-activity diary during
4 days per week recording dierent activities performed during each 15 min
interval. For each specic activity, the mean intensity (accelerometer counts/
min), mean duration per day (min/d) and proportion of involved children
were calculated using linear regression models.
For the full range of activities, boys accumulated more mean counts/min
than girls. Adolescents spent more time in high intensity sports activities than
younger children (p < 0.001) but this increase was compensated by a reduc-
tion in time spent playing vigorously (p = 0.04). In addition, adolescents
spent signicantly more time in sedentary activities (p < 0.001) and accu-
mulated less counts/min during these activities than younger children (p =
0.007). Among moderate to vigorous activities, children spent most time with
vigorous play (43 min/day) and active transportation (56 min/day).
e combination of accelerometers and time activity diaries provides insight
into age and gender related dierences in PA. is information is warranted
to eciently guide and evaluate PA promotion.
Childhood overweight and obesity are increasing in many countries including
Switzerland [1] and there is growing concern that decreasing levels of physical
activity (PA) may contribute to this development. Still, appropriately measuring
PA in children is a major challenge. Questionnaires and accelerometer measure-
ments are the most widely used instruments [2,3]. Self- or proxy reports provide
information about mode/type and duration of PA but show limited validity in
assessing PA levels and are susceptible to reporting bias by social desirability [4].
On the other hand, accelerometer measurements provide valid overall estimates of
intensity of PA [5,6]. Nevertheless, they neither determine which activities con-
tribute most or least to PA in children nor the variation in the type and duration
of habitual activities over time. Yet, this information is of great importance for

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