Research Study Abstract

Physical Activity and Changes in Adiposity in the Transition from Elementary to Middle School

  • Published on Feb 1, 2017

Objectives: This study examined the longitudinal associations of objectively measured physical activity, sedentary behavior, and diet quality with two measures of adiposity and a measure of weight status.

Methods: A total of 658 children from 21 elementary schools (45.1% boys; 40% white, 33% black, 9% Hispanic, and 18% other race/ethnicity) were assessed at least twice in fifth, sixth, and/or seventh grade. Fat mass index (FMI), percent body fat (PBF), and BMI were calculated from body weight, standing and seated heights, and bioelectrical impedance (BIA) measured each year.

Results: At follow-up, both FMI and PBF decreased among boys and increased among girls, while BMI increased in both boys and girls. After controlling for race/ethnicity, parent education, and maturity offset at baseline, growth curve analyses showed that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was significantly and negatively associated with FMI, PBF, and BMI for both boys and girls. After forming tertiles of fifth grade MVPA, least-square means for FMI, PBF, and BMI were examined by grade and gender. For both boys and girls, higher MVPA was associated with lower FMI, PBF, and BMI at all three grade levels. The relationships between sedentary behavior and diet quality and FMI, PBF, and BMI were not consistent for boys or girls.

Conclusions: As boys and girls transitioned from elementary to middle school, children who participated in higher levels of MVPA maintained more favorable levels of two indicators of adiposity and a measure of weight status. These findings support the need for interventions to help children meet current public health guidelines for physical activity.


  • Dowda Marsha 1
  • Taverno Ross Sharon E. 2
  • McIver Kerry L. 1
  • Dishman Rodney K. 3
  • Pate Russell R. 1


  • 1

    Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

  • 2

    Department of Health and Physical Activity, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

  • 3

    Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA.


Childhood Obesity


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