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Joint associations between objectively measured physical activity volume and intensity with body fatness: the Fenland study.

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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) represents the total volume of all physical activity. This can be accumulated as different underlying intensity profiles. Although volume and intensity have been studied in isolation, less is known about their joint association with health. We examined this association with body fatness in a population-based sample of middle-aged British adults. METHODS: In total, 6148 women and 5320 men from the Fenland study with objectively measured physical activity from individually calibrated combined heart rate and movement sensing and DXA-derived body fat percentage (BF%) were included in the analyses. We used linear and compositional isocaloric substitution analysis to examine associations of PAEE and its intensity composition with body fatness. Sex-stratified models were adjusted for socio-economic and dietary covariates. RESULTS: PAEE was inversely associated with body fatness in women (beta = -0.16 (95% CI: -0.17; -0.15) BF% per kJ day-1 kg-1) and men (beta = -0.09 (95% CI: -0.10; -0.08) BF% per kJ day-1 kg-1). Intensity composition was significantly associated with body fatness, beyond that of PAEE; the reallocation of energy to vigorous physical activity (>6 METs) from other intensities was associated with less body fatness, whereas light activity (1.5-3 METs) was positively associated. However, light activity was the main driver of overall PAEE volume, and the relative importance of intensity was marginal compared to that of volume; the difference between PAEE in tertile 1 and 2 in women was associated with 3 percentage-point lower BF%. Higher vigorous physical activity in the same group to the maximum observed value was associated with 1 percentage-point lower BF%. CONCLUSIONS: In this large, population-based cohort study with objective measures, PAEE was inversely associated with body fatness. Beyond the PAEE association, greater levels of intense activity were also associated with lower body fatness. This contribution was marginal relative to PAEE. These findings support current guidelines for physical activity which emphasise that any movement is beneficial, rather than specific activity intensity or duration targets.



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Int J Obes (Lond)

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC


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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) (146281)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/4)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/1)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/6)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/3)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/3)
The Fenland study was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. The current work was supported by the Medical Research Council (S.B., K.Wi., T.S., K.We, P.C.D., grant number MC_UU_12015/3, MC_UU_00006/4), (S.G., grant number MC_UU_12015/4, MC_UU_00006/6), (N.J.W., grant number MC_UU_12015/1, MC_UU_00006/1), (N.G.F., grant number MC_UU_12015/5, MC_UU_00006/3); the National Institute of Health Research Cambridge (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (K.We., E.D.L.R., S.B., N.G.F., and N.J.W., grant number IS-BRC-1215-20014); National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Research Fellowship (P.C.D., grant number 1142685), and the Cambridge Trust and St Catharine’s College (T.L.). The funders had no role in the design, analysis or writing of this article.