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Relationship between temperament, nonresting energy expenditure, body composition, and physical activity in girls


Objectives: To assess the extent that predilection for movement, as measured by a temperament questionnaire (activity temperament), contributes to nonresting energy expenditure and body composition in girls.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Baseline data for 196 premenarcheal non-obese girls aged 8–12 y were obtained from a longitudinal study of growth and development. The association of activity temperament with nonresting energy expenditure in girls with low and high levels of physical activity was evaluated, as was the association of activity temperament with body composition.

Measures: Maternal reports of child activity temperament were obtained by questionnaire. Nonresting energy expenditure was calculated as total energy expenditure (measured by doubly labeled water) minus resting energy expenditure (obtained by indirect calorimetry). Body composition was estimated by total body water. Questionnaires and activity diaries were used to assess physical activity and sedentary behavior.

Results: Higher activity temperament was associated with higher nonresting energy expenditure after multivariate control for weight, vigorous activity, walking and light activity, and television viewing, although activity temperament did not account for a large percentage of the variability in nonresting energy expenditure (partial squared correlation coefficient=0.03). In girls with physical activity levels below the median, high activity temperament was associated with a mean±s.d., nonresting energy expenditure of 310±138 kJ (74±33 kcal) above that of girls with a low activity temperament. Girls with a high activity temperament had less body fat than did girls with a low activity temperament (21.6 vs 24.5%, a difference of 2.9 percentage points; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–4.4 percentage points).

Conclusion: Predilection for movement, as measured by a temperament questionnaire, contributes to nonresting energy expenditure and may be useful in capturing an aspect of energy expenditure in population studies. The cross-sectional observation that girls with a high activity temperament were leaner than girls with a low activity temperament suggests that a constitutional predilection for movement may play a role in the development of obesity.

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We gratefully acknowledge Pamela Ching, Jennifer Spadano, and the staff at the Clinical Research Center for their assistance with the study, as well as the girls who enrolled for their participation and commitment. This study was supported by NIH Grants DK-50537, M01-RR-00088, 5P30 DK46200, T32-DK62032-11.

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Correspondence to S E Anderson.

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Anderson, S., Bandini, L., Dietz, W. et al. Relationship between temperament, nonresting energy expenditure, body composition, and physical activity in girls. Int J Obes 28, 300–306 (2004).

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  • child temperament
  • energy expenditure
  • nonexercise activity thermogenesis
  • weight

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