Children’s moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on weekdays versus weekend days: A multi-country analysis

Russell Jago, Keith Brazendale*, Michael Beets, Bridget Armstrong, R Glenn Weaver, Ethan T Hunt, Russell R Pate, Timothy A Brusseau, Amy Bohnert, Timothy Olds, Rafael M Tassitano, Maria Cecilia M Tenorio, Jeanette Garcia, Lars B Andersen, Rachel Davey, Pedro Hallal, Elin Kolle, Susi Kriemler, Peter L Kristensen, Soyang KwonJardena J Puder, Jo Salmon, Luis B Sardinha, Esther M F van Sluijs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
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Purpose: The Structured Days Hypothesis (SDH) posits that children’s behaviors associated with obesity – such as physical activity – are more favorable on days that contain more ‘structure’ (i.e., a pre-planned, segmented, and adult-supervised environment) such as school weekdays, compared to days with less structure, such as weekend days. The purpose of this study was to compare children’s moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) levels on weekdays versus weekend days using a large, multi-country, accelerometer-measured physical activity dataset.

Methods: Data were received from the International Children’s Accelerometer Database (ICAD) July 2019. The ICAD inclusion criteria for a valid day of wear, only non-intervention data (e.g., baseline intervention data), children with at least 1 weekday and 1 weekend day, and ICAD studies with data collected exclusively during school months, were included for analyses. Mixed effects models accounting for the nested nature of the data (i.e., days within children) assessed MVPA minutes per day (min/day MVPA) differences between weekdays and weekend days by region/country, adjusted for age, sex, and total wear time. Separate meta-analytical models explored differences by age and country/region for sex and child weight-status.

Results/findings: Valid data from 15 studies representing 5,794 children (61% female, 10.7 ±2.1 yrs, 24% with overweight/obesity) and 35,263 days of valid accelerometer data from 5 distinct countries/regions were used. Boys and girls accumulated 12.6 min/day (95% CI: 9.0, 16.2) and 9.4 min/day (95% CI: 7.2, 11.6) more MVPA on weekdays versus weekend days, respectively. Children from mainland Europe had the largest differences (17.1 min/day more MVPA on weekdays versus weekend days, 95% CI: 15.3, 19.0) compared to the other countries/regions. Children who were classified as overweight/obese or normal weight/underweight accumulated 9.5 min/day (95% CI: 6.9, 12.2) and 10.9 min/day (95% CI: 8.3, 13.5) of additional MVPA on weekdays versus weekend days, respectively.

Conclusions: Children from multiple countries/regions accumulated significantly more MVPA on weekdays versus weekend days during school months. This finding aligns with the SDH and warrants future intervention studies to prioritize less-structured days, such as weekend days, and to consider providing opportunities for all children to access additional opportunities to be active.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 28 (2021)
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2021

Structured keywords

  • SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences


  • children
  • physical activity
  • accelerometer
  • weekday
  • weekend
  • structure


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