Ethnic differences in sedentary behaviour in 6–8-year-old children during school terms and school holidays: a mixed methods study

Publication authors

Liana C. Nagy, Maria Horne, Muhammad Faisal, M. A. Mohammed & Sally E. Barber



Sedentary behaviour (SB) in childhood is a major public health concern. Little is known about ethnic differences in SB during school and holiday weeks among White British (WB) and South Asian (SA) children, which this study aims to address through investigating inclinometer measured SB and exploring reasons for child engagement in SB.


A mixed methods study, comprising of a quantitative investigation with 160, 6–8 years old children and a qualitative study with a subsample of 18 children, six parents and eight teachers was undertaken. Children of WB and SA ethnicity in three schools were invited to wear inclinometers for seven school terms (summer/winter/spring) and seven holidays (winter/spring) days during July 2016–May 2017. Total SB, SB accumulated in bouts > 30 min and breaks in SB were explored using multivariate linear mixed effects models which adjusted for wear time, sex, deprivation, overweight status, season, term, weekday and school.

Nine focus groups and two interviews were carried out using the Theoretical Domains Framework to explore SB perceptions among parents, teachers and children. Data were analysed using the Framework Approach.


104/160 children provided 836 valid days of data. Children spent on average eight hours of SB/day during term time and holidays, equating to 60% of their awake time, and had on average 111 SB breaks /day. SA children had 25 fewer SB breaks/ day when compared to WB (p < 0.001). Perceived reasons for engagement in SB included: boredom, enjoyment of screen activities (by children), parenting practices, curriculum pressures (by teachers), the need to sit down and learn, and child’s preference for screen activities (by parents).


Children spent 60% of their awake time being sedentary, regardless of ethnicity or school term. There were no significant ethnic differences for any of the SB outcomes except for breaks in SB. Interventions aimed at reducing SB should consider involving parents and teachers and should focus on increasing breaks in SB, especially for SA children, who are at a higher risk of cardio metabolic ill health.