Background There is no information about physical activity (PA) recommendations to avoid children’s obesity levels and how much of vigorous PA (VPA) is included into the ‘60 minutes of MVPA 5 days a week’ recommendation for children.
Objective The aim of this study was to examine the association between PA and adiposity in children and to examine whether the current PA guidelines are associated with a low risk of having excess of body fat in children, with special focus on sex differences, and PA intensity.
Methods A sample of 439 Spanish children aged 8–10 years from the European Youth Heart Study participated in the study. The variables measured were anthropometric characteristics (height, weight, body mass index [BMI], skin-folds and waist circumference) and PA was measured during 6 consecutive days using the GT1M accelerometer.
Results Receiver operating characteristic analysis showed significant cut-off points associated with non-overweight: 45 min d−1 of VPA and 67 min d−1 of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (using BMI categories); and non-fat: 41 min d−1 of VPA and 67 min d−1 of MVPA (using percentage of body fat) and 38 min d−1 of VPA and 47 min d−1 of MVPA (using waist circumference categories) for boys. For girls, the optimal cut-offs of moderate-to-vigorous activity and MVPA associated with non-overweight were 24 and 57 min d−1, respectively (BMI). Boys who did not meet 67 min in MVPA had an increased risk of being overweight + obese and overfat + obese (odds ratio [OR] = 2.48, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.36, 4.53, and OR = 2.56, 95% CI = 1.12, 5.82).
Conclusions The findings support current PA recommendations (60 min d−1 of MVPA) to avoid excess of body fat in Spanish children. However, VPA appears to be an important component for the prevention of obesity, and our findings suggest that PA recommendations should specify the dose of VPA required for optimal health. Therefore, public health PA recommendations should incorporate specifically a greater dose of VPA into the total amount of MVPA in 8- to 10-year-old boys.