Balancing time use for children’s fitness and adiposity: Evidence to inform 24-hour guidelines for sleep, sedentary time and physical activity



Daily time spent on one activity cannot change without compensatory changes in others, which themselves may impact on health outcomes. Optimal daily activity combinations may differ across outcomes. We estimated optimal daily activity durations for the highest fitness and lowest adiposity.


Cross-sectional Child Health CheckPoint data (1182 11-12-year-olds; 51% boys) from the population-based Longitudinal Study of Australian Children were used. Daily activity composition (sleep, sedentary time, light physical activity [LPA], moderate-to-vigorous physical activity [MVPA]) was from 8-day, 24-hour accelerometry. We created composite outcomes for fitness (VO2max; standing long jump) and adiposity (waist-to-height ratio; body mass index; fat-to-fat-free log-ratio). Adjusted compositional models regressed activity log-ratios against each outcome. Best activity compositions (optimal time-use zones) were plotted in quaternary tetrahedrons; the overall optimal time-use composition was the center of the overlapping area.


Time-use composition was associated with fitness and adiposity (all measures p<0.001). Optimal time use differed for fitness and adiposity. While both maximized MVPA and minimized sedentary time, optimal fitness days had higher LPA (3.4 h) and shorter sleep (8.25 h), but optimal adiposity days had lower LPA (1.0 h) and longer sleep (10.9 h). Balancing both outcomes, the overall optimal time-use composition was (mean [range]): 10.2 [9.5; 10.5] h sleep, 9.9 [8.8; 11.2] h sedentary time, 2.4 [1.8; 3.2] h LPA and 1.5 [1.5; 1.5] h MVPA.


Optimal time use for children’s fitness and adiposity involves trade-offs. To best balance both outcomes, estimated activity durations for sleep and LPA align with, but for MVPA exceed, 24-h guidelines.

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  1. Mark S. Tremblay

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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