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Minutes, MET minutes, and METs: unpacking socio-economic gradients in physical activity in adolescents
  1. C A Maher1,
  2. T S Olds1,2
  1. 1School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
  2. 2Sansom Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Carol Maher, c/- Health and Use of Time Research Group, C7-42, City East Campus, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia; carol.maher{at}


Background There is conflicting evidence regarding the relationship between socio-economic position (SEP) and physical activity in adolescents. The aim of this study was to investigate associations between SEP and characteristics of physical activity in Australian adolescents using a high-resolution use-of-time tool.

Method Use-of-time and pedometer data were collected on a random sample of 2071 9–16-year-old Australian children. Use-of-time was recorded using a computerised 24-h use-of-time recall, the Multimedia Activity Recall for Children and Adults. Reported household income was used as a marker of SEP.

Results There were no differences in self-reported minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) across the income bands and only very small differences in the number of daily steps. However, the mix of MVPA components varied across income bands, with adolescents from low-SEP families experiencing less sport but more active transport. Because the mean rate of energy expenditure was greater in sport than in other forms of MVPA (play, active transport or chores), there were significant differences in MVPA-related and total daily energy expenditure across income bands, with the lower bands having significantly lower values. Differences in total daily energy expenditure were almost entirely explained by differences in energy expenditure associated with sport.

Conclusion Physical activity patterns vary across SEP bands in Australian adolescents, with sport being the major locus of differences. Instruments which do not account for the energy costs of various activities may fail to detect important relationships.

  • Socio-economic status
  • physical activity
  • methodological study
  • child
  • adolescent
  • adolescents CG
  • children
  • methodology ME
  • socio-economic

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  • Funding This study was supported by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing; the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and by the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of South Australia Human Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.