OBJECTIVES: Describe the trajectories of body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and aerobic fitness in children and identify different outcomes of guideline-recommended physical activity (PA) in a subset of active children.
METHODS: We recruited students from 10 public primary schools and obtained repeated measures of BMI, waist circumference, and aerobic fitness over 30 months. Aerobic fitness was measured with the Andersen test. We objectively measured physical activity behaviour with accelerometers and classified children as 'physically active' when they achieved ≥ 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous PA per day (guideline concordance). Univariate trajectories of BMI, waist circumference, and aerobic fitness were calculated for all children, and we constructed a multi-trajectory model comprising all outcomes in the subgroup of physically active children. The construct validity of all models was investigated by examining for between-group differences in cardiovascular disease risk factors obtained from fasting blood samples.
RESULTS: Data from 1208 children (53% female) with a mean (SD) age of 8.4 (1.4) years were included. The univariate trajectory models identified three distinct trajectories for BMI, waist circumference, and aerobic fitness. The multi-trajectory model classified 9.1% of physically active children as following an 'overweight/obese/low fitness' trajectory. There were moderate-to-large differences in cardiovascular risk factors between all trajectory groups (p < 0.001; d = 0.4-1.20).
CONCLUSION: We identified distinct developmental trajectories of BMI, waist circumference, and aerobic fitness in children. Nearly one in 10 children who met PA guideline recommendations followed an unfavourable health trajectory. Health-related PA recommendations may be insufficient for some children.