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Physical activity measures in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

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Learn about the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and its measurement of physical activity

Longitudinal study description

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is also known as Children of the 90s. The study recruited 14,541 women with expected deliveries from April 1991 to December 1992 in the Avon area of South West England [103, 104]. The aim of the study was to understand the influence of environmental and genetic factors on the health and development of parents and children. Women completed questionnaires during their pregnancy and have continued to provide data on themselves and their children multiple questionnaires in addition to clinic assessments. Partners, teachers, and school age children themselves have provided questionnaire data. Data have been collected on a yearly basis from one or several of these respondents and have included health and biometric data, as well as social and psychological measures. Original parents (G0) and their children (G1) have been followed up using questionnaires and face-to-face clinics, with biological samples, exposure, and outcome measures.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, six computer-assisted web surveys were administered (April/May 2020, May/June 2020, Oct 2020, Dec 2020-March 2021, July – Dec 2021, April/May 2022) to both G0 and G1 cohorts. Antibody tests were taken in Oct 2020 and Serological measures were assessed in April-June 2021 and May-June 2022.

Physical activity overview (3 to 30y)

ALSPAC contains childhood and adult self-reported measures across physical activity domains (from 3-30y). Leisure time was measured at ages 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 22y and 26y as well as in some COVID waves (27y-30y). Active travel was measured at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 13, 16, and 22y; and sedentary behaviour was measured at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 16, 22 and 26y, and in some COVID waves (27y-30y).

In terms of comparability, measures of leisure time reporting frequency or type of activity (intensity) are comparable across ages. Overall, the method of active travel can be compared across ages, and duration (min/day) is commonly measured in childhood. Additionally, there are some measures of distance (km) in very early childhood although there are no common measures in adulthood. Finally, measures of sedentary behaviour are comparable in duration (hr/day) across all ages, and in some cases additionally asking for differences in weekdays and weekends.

Objective measures of physical activity (minutes of sedentary, light, and moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity) were assessed at ages 12, 14, and 15y (and a sub-set at age 24) using the Actigraph accelerometer (Actigraph, Pensacola, Florida).

Data access

ALSPAC data is accessible to bona fide researchers by applying through the ALSPAC online proposal system. Fees may apply. More information is available on the ALSPAC website.  ALSPAC is a member of the International Children’s Accelerometer Database (ICAD), and harmonised data is also available through this consortium.

Learn about the other studies covered by this guide and their measurement of physical activity:

Explore the measures by physical activity domain and their cross-study comparability:

Further information:

This page is part of the CLOSER resource: ‘Physical activity across age and study: a guide to data in six CLOSER studies’.