Exploring children's self-reported activity compensation: the REACT study

Brittany Swelam, Lauren Arundell, Jo Salmon, Gavin Abbott, Anna Timperio, Sebastien F. M. Chastin, Nicola D Ridgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


PURPOSE: Previous research has focused on device-based measures of activity compensation, with little understanding of how children perceive potential compensatory responses to activity or inactivity, or whether these change after periods of activity or inactivity. The aim of this study was (a) to explore the alignment between children's self-reported usual compensation and compensation recall after experimental conditions and (b) to examine sex differences.

METHODS: In total, 360 children (47% boys) participated in at least one of three experimental conditions over 6 wk: (a) restricted physical activity (PA; indoor play), (b) imposed moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA (MVPA; sports class), and (c) imposed light-intensity PA (LPA; standing lesson). Before the first condition, children reported their "usual compensation" behavior to examples of restricted/imposed PA, and 2-3 d after each experimental condition, they completed a recall measure of their compensation after the condition. Multilevel regression models were conducted to determine whether children's perceptions of "usual compensation" score were associated with recalled compensation score after imposed or restricted PA. Additional models were fitted for sex-specific associations.

RESULTS: Overall and among girls, the usual compensation score was positively associated with the compensatory recall score for the additional MVPA and LPA conditions ( P < 0.0005; e.g., they thought they would usually compensate for additional MVPA and then perceived that they compensated after additional MVPA). A negative association was seen in the restricted activity condition among girls ( P = 0.03). All associations in the boys' analyses were statistically nonsignificant.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest some alignment between children's self-reported usual compensation and compensation recall after imposed changes to routine activity. Future research should consider device-measured comparisons and identify characteristics of children at risk of activity compensation in future interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1456-1464
Number of pages9
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number8
Early online date10 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Activitystat
  • Children
  • Activity Compensation
  • Physical Activity
  • Sedentary Behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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