Understanding children’s physical activity from a multilevel perspective in both a UK and international sample

  • Hannah Wilkie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Globally, childhood obesity is a severe public health concern. Thus, it is imperative to gain a deeper understanding of how to target modifiable lifestyle behaviours in order to curb the prevalence of obesity among youth. Physical inactivity in particular has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality by the World Health Organization. The aim of this research was to explore correlates of objectively assessed physical activity (PA) using a socio-ecological approach in order to gain a broader understanding of how to promote activity levels, and in turn a healthy body weight, among children. Data from the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE)1 were analysed and six original empirical papers were produced. The first of these showed the importance of PA, as a negative relationship with overweight/obesity was found, independent of other behaviours. A literature review was then conducted, using a unique ‘Report Card’ assessment tool, to gauge the current ‘state of the nation’ in regards to children’s PA. This work showed that few children are sufficiently active and several areas for future research were highlighted, which informed subsequent analyses. A number of correlates of PA were identified in the following two papers; outdoor time in particular was positively associated with most outcomes. Yet, it was recognized in the Report Card that time spent outdoors appears to have declined, thus correlates of this behaviour were explored in the penultimate paper, which showed that certain groups may need to be targeted. Inconsistent findings were reported across all papers regarding the role of screen time, thus this formed the primary focus of the final paper. Screen time may compete with PA among particular groups depending on the screen-based behaviour in question.Overall, this body of research has contributed to the extant literature, and the findings support the need for further work involving context-specific analyses.
Date of Award21 Oct 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMartyn Standage (Supervisor) & Fiona Gillison (Supervisor)

Cite this