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The IDEFICS validation study on field methods for assessing physical activity and body composition in children: design and data collection



To describe the design, measurements and fieldwork of the IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of dietary- and lifestyle-induced health effects in children and infants) physical activity and body composition validation study, and to determine the potential and limitations of the data obtained.


Multicentre validation study.


A total of 98 children from four different European countries (age: 4–10 years).


An 8-day measurement protocol was carried out in all children using a collaborative protocol. Reference methods were the doubly labelled water method for physical activity, and a three- and a four-compartment model for body composition. Investigated field methods were accelerometers, a physical activity questionnaire and various anthropometric measurements.


For the validation of physical activity field methods, it was possible to gather data from 83 to 89 children, laying the basis for age- and sex-specific results. The validation of body composition field methods is possible in 64–80 children and allows sex-specific analyses but has only limited statistical power in the youngest age group (<6 years). The amount of activity energy expenditure (AEE) varied between centres, sexes and age groups, with boys and older children having higher estimates of AEE. After normalisation of AEE by body weight, most group-specific differences diminished, except for country-specific differences.


The IDEFICS validation study will allow age- and sex-specific investigation of questions pertaining to the validity of several field methods of body composition and physical activity, using established reference methods in four different European countries. From the participant analyses it can be concluded that the compliance for the investigated field methods was higher than that for the reference methods used in this validation study.

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We thank all members of the study teams and especially the children and their parents for their enthusiastic participation in the study. This study was conducted as part of the IDEFICS study ( We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the European Community within the Sixth RTD Framework Programme under Contract No. 016181 (FOOD).

The information in this document reflects the author's view and is provided as it is.

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Correspondence to K Bammann.

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Competing interests

MR has declared equity ownership/stock options with BioTel Ltd and Optimal Performance Ltd. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Statement of ethics

We certify that all applicable institutional and governmental regulations pertaining to the ethical use of human volunteers were followed during this research. Approval by the appropriate ethics committees was obtained by each of the eight centres carrying out the fieldwork. Study children did not undergo any procedure before both they and their parents gave consent for examinations, collection of samples, subsequent analysis and storage of personal data and collected samples. Participating children and their parents could consent to single components of the study while abstaining from others.

Appendix: Outdoor playtime checklist (Burdette et al., 2004)

Appendix: Outdoor playtime checklist (Burdette et al., 2004)

How much time does your child usually spend per day playing in the yard or street around your house (or the house of a friend, neighbour or relative)?

Please indicate for every time frame.

How much time does your child usually spend per day at a park, playground or outdoor recreation area (for example, swimming pool, zoo or amusement park)?

Please indicate for every time frame. Include times that the child is at daycare, kindergarten, preschool or school.

Think for a moment about a typical weekday for your child in the last month. How much time would you say your child spends playing outdoors on a typical weekday?

Now think about a typical weekend day for your child in the last month. How much time would you say your child spends playing outdoors on a typical weekend day?

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Bammann, K., Sioen, I., Huybrechts, I. et al. The IDEFICS validation study on field methods for assessing physical activity and body composition in children: design and data collection. Int J Obes 35 (Suppl 1), S79–S87 (2011).

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