Temporal Trends and Correlates of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Physical Fitness among School-Aged Children in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review
Muthuri, S. K.
Wachira, L. M.
Leblanc, A. G.
Francis, C. E.
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Recent physical activity (PA) and fitness transitions, identified as behavioural shifts from traditionally active lifestyles to more industralised and sedentary lifestyles, have been observed among school-aged children. There is a wealth of supporting evidence of such behavioural transitions in high income countries; however, a paucity of data on lower income countries exists. These transitions pose a particular threat to the welfare of children by accelerating the onset of chronic diseases. This systematic review investigated the evidence for a PA and fitness transition among Sub-Saharan Africa’s school-aged children. Temporal trends and correlates of PA, SB, and fitness were examined. Studies were identified by searching the MEDLINE, Embase, Africa Index Medicus, Global Health, Geobase, and EPPI-Centre electronic databases, and were included if they measured outcomes of interest in apparently healthy samples of children (5‒17 years). A total of 71 articles met the inclusion criteria (40 informed PA, 17 informed SB, and 37 informed fitness). Vast heterogeneity in study methodology complicated analysis of transitions over time and no temporal trends were immediately discernible. However, higher socioeconomic status, urban living, and female children were found to engage in lower levels of PA, higher SB, and performed worse on aerobic fitness measures compared to lower socioeconomic status, rural living, and male children. Data revealed that urbanization was associated with a trend towards decreased PA, increased SB, and decreased aerobic fitness over time. Representative, temporally sequenced data examining a PA and fitness transition are lacking in this region (PROSPERO Registration Number: CRD42013004399).