Physical Activity and Sedentary Time Among Mothers of School-Aged Children: Differences in Accelerometer-Derived Pattern Metrics by Demographic, Employment, and Household Factors

Published:April 28, 2022DOI:



      Dynamic patterns of how physical activity and sedentary time are accumulated across the day are associated with health outcomes, independent of total activity levels. Individual factors may influence activity patterns in mothers, but these associations are unknown. This study examined multivariable associations between demographic, employment, and household factors and day-level pattern metrics.


      Mothers (N = 200) of school-aged children (ages 8–12 years) participated in 6 semi-annual 7-day assessments. Waist-worn Actigraph GT3X accelerometers assessed daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA; minutes, number of short bouts [<10 minutes], proportion of long bouts [≥20 minutes]) and sedentary time (minutes, number of breaks, proportion of long bouts [≥60 minutes], temporal dispersion). Multilevel models examined associations between individual characteristics and activity metrics.


      There were 4,930 day-level observations. Having a college degree was associated with fewer short MVPA bouts (B = −2.67), more sedentary minutes (B = 21.66), greater long sedentary bouts (odds ratio = 1.50), and having sedentary time less evenly distributed across the day (B = 0.01). Working full-time was associated with more short MVPA bouts (B = 1.39) and breaks in sedentary time (B = 2.08). Having at least 1 infant (<6 months old) in the same household was associated with fewer MVPA minutes (B = −0.11) and short MVPA bouts (B = −4.46), whereas having at least 1 young child (6 months–5 years old) in the same household was associated with fewer sedentary minutes (B = −11.85) and fewer long sedentary bouts (odds ratio = 0.70).


      Day-level pattern metrics show differences not captured when examining total volume alone. Results provide more nuanced information as to how activity is accumulated in terms of bouts and breaks, which can inform programs to increase MVPA and reduce sedentary time by elucidating subpopulations that should be targeted by health behavior interventions.
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      Bridgette Do, MPH, is a doctoral student in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California. Her research interests include ecological momentary assessment, obesity and cancer prevention, and the psychosocial correlates of physical activity and diet.


      Jennifer Zink, PhD, is a Cancer Prevention Fellow in the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute. Her research interests include sedentary behavior, metabolic biomarkers, affective states, cancer prevention, intensive longitudinal data, and adolescents.


      Tyler B. Mason, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California, with research interests in the etiology and treatment of eating disorders and obesity among children and adults.


      Britni R. Belcher, PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California, with research interests in biological and psychosocial factors contributing to energy balance behaviors (diet, physical activity) and obesity risk among children.


      Genevieve F. Dunton, PhD, MPH, is a Professor in the Departments of Population and Public Health Sciences and Psychology, University of Southern California. Her research interests include real-time data capture methodologies and health behaviors related to chronic disease risk in children and adults.