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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

Relationships of physical activity and sedentary time in obese parent-child dyads: a cross-sectional study

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Robert G. McMurray, Diane C. Berry, Todd A. Schwartz, Emily G. Hall, Madeline N. Neal, Siying Li, Diana Lam
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interest

The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Author’s contributions

DCB was the principal investigator of the study. RGM and TAS were co-investigators of the study and contributed to developing the research questions and study design. MNN was the day-to-day project manager. EGH was the day-to-day field coordinator and organized the accelerometry data. SL and DL assisted with organizing the data and running the statistical analysis. DCB, RGM, TAS, MNN, EGH, SL, and DL contributed equally to implementation of the accelerometry data analysis. All authors contributed to the development, read and approved the final manuscript.



Research suggests physical activity is linked to obesity. Further, the physical activity of healthy parents and their children is associated with each other. However, this relationship has not been examined in obese parents and their obese children.


The purpose of this study was to compare the physical activity and sedentary time of obese, low-income, ethnic minority parents and their children on weekdays and weekend days using accelerometry. Data were obtained from eight rural sites in the middle and eastern part of North Carolina (N.C.), United States (U.S.) from 2007-2010 using a rolling enrollment. One hundred and ninety-nine obese parents (94 % female) and their obese children (54 % female) wore accelerometers simultaneously for three weekdays and one weekend day. Total physical activity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary time and proportions were determined.


Parents’ and children’s total physical activity and MVPA levels were lower on weekend days than weekdays. Total counts per minute for children on weekdays and weekend days were greater than for parents (p < 0.001). Total counts per minute were more highly correlated on weekend days than weekdays (r = 0.352, p < 0.0002 versus r = 0.165, p < 0.025). Parents’ performed MVPA for 14 (SD = ±25) and 9 (SD = ±16) minutes/day on weekdays and weekend days, respectively; children performed MVPA for 37 (SD = ±25) and 31(SD = ±38) minutes/day for weekdays and weekend days, respectively. Correlations between parents and children for MVPA were higher on weekend days versus weekdays (r = 0.253 and 0.177, respectively; p < 0.015). Associations for sedentary time followed a similar trend, with r = 0.33 (p < 0.0002) for weekend days and r = 0.016 (p < 0.026) for weekdays. Associations between obese parent-child dyads on sedentary time were stronger for girls, while associations between dyads on MVPA were stronger for boys. However, formal interaction analyses were not significant (p > 0.13).


Since physical activity levels of obese parents and their obese child are somewhat related, especially on weekend days, combined parent-child obesity programs focused on reducing sedentary time could be beneficial, particularly for the child.


In conclusion, this study of the physical activity levels of obese parents and their obese children found some relationships between the parents’ and children’s physical activity and sedentary behavior patterns, especially on weekend days.

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