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Temporal and Environmental Patterns of Sedentary and Active Behaviors during Adolescents’ Leisure Time



There is great interest in young people’s overweight and obesity. Few data, however, describe when sedentary and physically active behaviors are likely to occur during the day or how these behaviors are related to location.


The purpose of this study was to describe sedentary and active leisure-time behaviors of adolescents across the day and setting.


Adolescents (male n = 579, female n = 967; aged 13–16 years) completed time-use diaries for three weekdays and one weekend day. At 15 min intervals, participants recorded what they were doing and where they were.


TV viewing and sports/exercise peaked at different times in the day, although TV viewing was two to three times more likely to occur than sports/exercise. TV viewing was most likely to occur during the middle to late evening. The playing of computer games was low, particularly for girls. Weekend data showed TV viewing was the most reported activity throughout the day. For boys, “being in the garden” was highly predictive of engaging in sports/exercise, but this declined rapidly with age. Motorized travel to school was reported twice as often as active travel.


Momentary assessments of behavior, in conjunction with contemporaneous reports of environmental factors, describe important patterns of leisure-time active and sedentary behaviors in youth.

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We acknowledge the financial support of The British Heart Foundation (Grant PG/2000124) and Masterfoods, Inc. Thanks are extended to Claire Mundy, Ian Murdey, and Sarah Whitehead for project assistance and the participating schools for their cooperation and interest.

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Correspondence to Stuart J. H. Biddle.

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Biddle, S.J.H., Marshall, S.J., Gorely, T. et al. Temporal and Environmental Patterns of Sedentary and Active Behaviors during Adolescents’ Leisure Time. Int.J. Behav. Med. 16, 278–286 (2009).

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  • Computer use
  • Diary
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Sport and exercise
  • Time-use
  • TV viewing