Previous studies suggest that British children of South Asian origin are less active and more sedentary than White British children. However, little is known about the behaviours underlying low activity levels, nor the familial contexts of active and sedentary behaviours in these groups. Our aim was to test hypotheses about differences between British Pakistani and White British girls using accelerometry and self-reports of key active and sedentary behaviours, and to obtain an understanding of factors affecting these behaviours using parental interviews.
Participants were 145 girls (70 White British and 75 British Pakistani) aged 9-11 years and parents of 19 of the girls. Accelerometry data were collected over 4 days and girls provided 24-hour physical activity interviews on 3 of these days. Multilevel linear regression models and generalised linear mixed models tested for ethnic differences in activity, sedentary time, and behaviours. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents.
Compared to White British girls, British Pakistani girls accumulated 102 (95% CI 59, 145) fewer counts per minute and 14 minutes (95% CI 8, 20) less time in moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. British Pakistani girls spent more time (28 minutes per day, 95% CI 14, 42) sedentary. Fewer British Pakistani than White British girls reported participation in organised sports and exercise (OR 0.22 95% CI 0.08, 0.64) or in outdoor play (OR 0.42 95% CI 0.20, 0.91). Fewer British Pakistani girls travelled actively to school (OR 0.26 95% CI 0.10, 0.71). There was no significant difference in reported screen time (OR 0.88 95% CI 0.45, 1.73). Parental interviews suggested that structural constraints (e.g. busy family schedules) and parental concerns about safety were important influences on activity levels.
British Pakistani girls were less active than White British girls and were less likely to participate in key active behaviours. Sedentary time was higher in British Pakistani girls but reported screen-time did not differ, suggesting that British Pakistani girls engaged more than White British girls in other sedentary behaviours. Interviews highlighted some differences between the groups in structural constraints on activity, as well as many shared constraints.