Background: To explore activity behaviors at school entry, we describe temporal/demographic associations with accelerometer- measured physical activity in a population-based sample of British 6-year-olds, and examine change from ages 4 to 6.
Methods: A total of 712 six-year-olds (308 at both ages) wore Actiheart accelerometers for ≥ 3 (mean 6.0) days. We derived minutes per day sedentary ( < 20 cpm) and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA, ≥ 460 cpm), also segmented across mornings (06:00 AM to 09:00 AM), school (09:00 AM to 3:00 PM), and evenings (3:00 PM to 11:00 PM). Using mixed effects linear regression, we analyzed associations between temporal/demographic factors and children ’ s activity intensities at age 6, and change between ages 4 and 6. Results: Six-year-old children engaged in MVPA (mean [SD]): 64.9 (25.7) minutes per day (53% met UK guidelines). Girls did less MVPA than boys, particularly during school hours. Children were less active on weekends (vs weekdays) and more active on spring/summer evenings (vs winter). Longitudinally, 6-year-old children did less light physical activity ( − 43.0; 95% conﬁ dence interval, − 47.5 to − 38.4 min/d) but were more sedentary (29.4; 24.6 to 34.2), and engaged in greater MVPA (7.1; 5.2 to 9.1) compared to when they were aged 4. Conclusion: Half of 6-year-old children met current activity guidelines; MVPA levels were lower in girls and at weekends. UK children became more sedentary but did more MVPA as they entered formal schooling. Physical activity promotion efforts should capitalize on these changes in MVPA, to maintain positive habits.