Background Physical activity (PA) is beneficial for child health; however, few children meet PA guidelines. Social relationships impact child PA behaviors. This study aims to understand the impact social networks may have on objectively measured PA and sedentary activity among Mexican-heritage children.
Methods Children (n=41; 51.2% female; µ age=9.93 years, SD=1.01) from Mexican-heritage families in colonias along the Texas-Mexico border reported information on up to five people they played with most often, including sex, frequency of play, and whether the person was active regularly. Children wore accelerometers to measure minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity PA (MVPA) and sedentary minutes per day. Multi-level modeling was used to analyze the relationship between network composition and PA behavior.
Results Children were sedentary for an average of 510.11 minutes (SD=76.67) per day and attained an average of 52.72 minutes of MVPA (SD=22.47) per day. Models containing network characteristics were significant in explaining MVPA (R2=.31) and sedentary minutes (R2=.42). Children who reported a higher percentage of friends as opposed to family members attained significantly more minutes of MVPA per day (β=-23.33,p=.02). Children who reported playing with individuals in their network more often (β=-47.08,p=.01) and whose networks contained a higher percentage of friends (β=-67.01,p=.02) were sedentary for fewer minutes per day.
Conclusions The composition of child play networks may have important consequences for MVPA and sedentary time. Increasing the connections between children in the community as well as increasing the frequency of active play opportunities may be a promising approach to increasing MVPA and decreasing sedentary time.