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Background: Physical inactivity increases the risk of obesity, but the relations between reported levels of physical activity (PA) and measures of body fatness (BF) in children are remarkably inconsistent. Objective: We examined the relation between objective measures of PA and body-composition indexes in nonobese children. Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 100 children aged 6-8 y who were recruited according to their risk of future obesity: high-risk children had > 1 obese parent [body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2): >30] and low-risk children had 2 nonobese biological parents (BMI: <30). Free-living activity energy expenditure (AEE) and PA level were calculated from 7-d doubly labeled water measurements, time spent in light-intensity activity was assessed by heart rate monitoring, and body composition was determined from isotopic dilution. To adjust for body size, fat mass and fat-free mass were normalized for height and expressed as fat mass index (FMI) and lean mass index (LMI), respectively. Results: High-risk children had significantly higher BMI, LMI, and FMI than did low-risk children, but no group differences in PA were found. AEE and PA level were positively associated with LMI and, after adjustment for sex and fat-free mass, negatively associated with FMI but not with BMI. Boys who spent more than the median time in light-intensity activities had significantly higher FMI than did less sedentary boys. This difference was not observed in girls. Conclusions: AEE and PA level were negatively associated with BF in nonobese children. Accurate measures of body composition are essential to appropriate assessment of relations between PA and obesity risk. © 2005 American Society for Clinical Nutrition.


Journal article


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Publication Date





13 - 20