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DOI: 10.1186/s12966-020-01027-1; PMCID: PMC7526379


BACKGROUND: Investigation of physical activity and dietary behaviors across locations can inform "setting-specific" health behavior interventions and improve understanding of contextual vulnerabilities to poor health. This study examined how physical activity, sedentary time, and dietary behaviors differed across home, school, and other locations in young adolescents.

METHODS: Participants were adolescents aged 12-16 years from the Baltimore-Washington, DC and the Seattle areas from a larger cross-sectional study. Participants (n = 472) wore an accelerometer and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) tracker (Mean days = 5.12, SD = 1.62) to collect location-based physical activity and sedentary data. Participants (n = 789) completed 24-h dietary recalls to assess dietary behaviors and eating locations. Spatial analyses were performed to classify daily physical activity, sedentary time patterns, and dietary behaviors by location, categorized as home, school, and "other" locations.

RESULTS: Adolescents were least physically active at home (2.5 min/hour of wear time) and school (2.9 min/hour of wear time) compared to "other" locations (5.9 min/hour of wear time). Participants spent a slightly greater proportion of wear time in sedentary time when at school (41 min/hour of wear time) than at home (39 min/hour of wear time), and time in bouts lasting ≥30 min (10 min/hour of wear time) and mean sedentary bout duration (5 min) were highest at school. About 61% of daily energy intake occurred at home, 25% at school, and 14% at "other" locations. Proportionately to energy intake, daily added sugar intake (5 g/100 kcal), fruits and vegetables (0.16 servings/100 kcal), high calorie beverages (0.09 beverages/100 kcal), whole grains (0.04 servings/100 kcal), grams of fiber (0.65 g/100 kcal), and calories of fat (33 kcal/100 kcal) and saturated fat (12 kcal/100 kcal) consumed were nutritionally least favorable at "other" locations. Daily sweet and savory snacks consumed was highest at school (0.14 snacks/100 kcal).

CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents' health behaviors differed based on the location/environment they were in. Although dietary behaviors were generally more favorable in the home and school locations, physical activity was generally low and sedentary time was higher in these locations. Health behavior interventions that address the multiple locations in which adolescents spend time and use location-specific behavior change strategies should be explored to optimize health behaviors in each location.

Journal Title

The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity [electronic resource]





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Adolescents; Built environment; Nutrition; Obesity; Physical activity; Sedentary behavior


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