Addressing the challenge of promoting youth physical activity

Could the way children accumulate activity each day have an impact on their future heart health?

Associate Professor Nicky Ridgers aims to establish whether the way that children and adolescents accumulate their activity each day has benefits for their cardiometabolic health.

Through her National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship, she is investigating how youth accumulate their physical activity and sedentary time, and how patterns of activity accumulation impact on cardiometabolic risk factors.

The current movement behaviour guidelines recommend that youth should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity and engage in several hours of light-intensity physical activities per day. However, there are no specific recommendations about how youth should accumulate their activity each day.

“My research aims to generate new information about whether the way youth accumulate their activity is associated with health,” Associate Professor Ridgers said.

“The findings have the potential to inform future movement behaviour guidelines on how to accumulate activity.”

Associate Professor Ridgers measured children’s and adolescents’ short periods of activity, i.e. more than five minutes of light physical activity and more than one minute of vigorous-intensity activity.

Her findings indicate that the accumulation of these activities intensities through behaviours such as walking, jogging, and running may be beneficial for youth cardiometabolic health. Increasing time spent in vigorous activity (regardless of how accumulated) may also be beneficial for cardiometabolic health.

Together with her research team, she has also discovered that children and adolescents accumulate their activity in three distinct patterns.

“We found that those who break up their sitting time and spend the most time in sporadic activity across the day had a lower risk of overweight and obesity,” she said.

Associate Professor Ridgers is now examining different ways of measuring how youth accumulate their activity and examining longitudinal changes in activity patterns.  

“This will provide insights into which patterns of activity could be targeted in interventions, and provide new evidence that could be integrated into public health and movement behaviour guidelines,” she explained.


Current findings:

  • Verswijveren, S.J.J.M., Salmon, J., Daly, R.M., Della Gatta, P.A., Arundell, L., Dunstan, D.W., Hesketh, K.D., Cerin, E. & Ridgers, N.D. (Accepted 5th November 2020). Is replacing sedentary time with bouts of physical activity associated with inflammatory biomarkers in children? Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.
  • Verswijveren, S.J.J.M., Salmon, J., Daly, R.M., Arundell, L., Cerin, E., Dunstan, D.W., Hesketh, K.D., Della Gatta, P.A. & Ridgers, N.D. (Accepted 8th September 2020). Reallocating sedentary time with total physical activity and physical activity accumulated in bouts: Associations with cardiometabolic biomarkers. Journal of Sports Sciences.
  • Verswijveren, S.J.J.M., Lamb, K.E., Timperio, A., Salmon, J., Telford, R.M., Daly, R.M., Cerin, E., Hume, C., Olive, L.S., Mackintosh, K.A., McNarry, M.A. & Ridgers, N.D. (2020). Cross-sectional associations of total daily volume and activity accumulation patterns across the activity spectrum with cardiometabolic risk factors in children and adolescents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 4286.
  • Verswijveren, S.J.J.M., Lamb, K.E., Leech, R.M., Salmon, J., Timperio, A., Telford, R.D., McNarry, M.A., Mackintosh, K.A., Daly, R.M., Dunstan, D.W., Hume, C., Cerin, E., Olive, L.S. & Ridgers, N.D. (2020). Activity accumulation and cardiometabolic risk in youth: A latent profile approach. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 52, 1502-1510.

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