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Cardiovascular fitness modifies the associations between physical activity and abdominal adiposity in children and adolescents: the European Youth Heart Study
  1. F B Ortega1,2,
  2. J R Ruiz1,2,
  3. A Hurtig-Wennlöf3,
  4. G Vicente-Rodríguez1,4,
  5. N S Rizzo1,
  6. M J Castillo2,
  7. M Sjöström1
  1. 1Unit for Preventive Nutrition, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at NOVUM, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Granada, Madrid, Spain
  3. 3School of Health and Medical Sciences/Clinical Medicine, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
  4. 4EU Health Sciences, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Francisco B Ortega, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at NOVUM, Karolinska Institutet, 14157 Huddinge, Sweden; ortegaf{at}


Objective To examine the associations between physical activity (PA) and abdominal adiposity, as measured by waist circumference, in children and adolescents, and to test whether cardiovascular fitness (CVF) modifies these associations.

Methods PA components were measured by accelerometry in 1075 individuals aged 9 or 15 years old. CVF was measured by a maximal cycling test. Self-reported maternal educational level, body mass index, children's birth weight and television viewing were used as confounders.

Results Linear regression did not show any association between the PA variables and waist circumference, after controlling for sex, age and height. When stratifying by CVF level (low/high), time spent at vigorous PA was inversely associated with waist circumference (p≤0.05) in the low CVF group. Unexpectedly, in the high CVF group, the PA variables were positively associated with waist circumference (p≤0.05). In both groups, the results were unchanged after controlling for the confounders. CVF was inversely associated with waist circumference, after controlling for all PA variables (p≤0.01) and confounders (p≤0.01).

Conclusion CVF is inversely associated with abdominal adiposity and seems to modify the associations between PA and abdominal adiposity. In low-fit children and adolescents, time spent in vigorous PA seems to be the key component linked to abdominal adiposity. This finding should be considered in further development of lifestyle intervention strategies. The results found in the high-fit group need to be confirmed.

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  • Funding The study was supported by grants from the Stockholm County Council and grants from the Spanish Ministry of Education (EX-2007-1124; EX-2008-0641; DEP2007-29933-E), grants from Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, and the ALPHA study (Ref: 2006120).

  • Competing interests None.