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Epidemiology and Population Health

Relative proportion of vigorous physical activity, total volume of moderate to vigorous activity, and body mass index in youth: the Millennium Cohort Study

International Journal of Obesity (2018) | Download Citation



The present physical activity guidelines suggest that when the overall activity energy expenditure is held constant, moderate and vigorous intensity activities (MVPA) provide equivalent health benefits. We explored associations between vigorous physical activity on body mass index whilst controlling for volume of MVPA.


In a longitudinal study with 7 years follow-up (n = 4770; aged 7 years old at baseline), physical activity was measured objectively at baseline. Body mass index (BMI) was measured at baseline and follow-up. Vigorous activity was expressed as the percentage of total MVPA.


Participants in the highest vigorous activity tertile at baseline were at lower odds (odds ratio = 0.70; 95% CI: 0.55, 0.88) of overweight /obesity at follow-up compared with those in the lowest vigorous activity tertile after adjustment for total volume of MVPA, BMI at baseline, sex, ethnicity and social status.


The results suggest vigorous activity, regardless of volume, is important in preventing excessive weight gain in young people.

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Hamer acknowledges support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, which is a partnership between University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Loughborough University, and the University of Leicester. Stamatakis is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) through a Senior Research Fellowship.

Author information


  1. School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

    • Mark Hamer
  2. Charles Perkins Centre Epidemiology Unit, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    • Emmanuel Stamatakis
  3. Prevention Research Collaboration, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    • Emmanuel Stamatakis


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MH obtained funding, conceptualised and designed the study, performed analyses, drafted the initial manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted. He is the manuscript’s guarantor. ES conceptualised and designed the study, provided statistical input and critical revision of the manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mark Hamer.

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