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


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 following periods of activity or inactivity. The aim of this study was to (a) explore the alignment between children's self-reported usual compensation and compensation recall following experimental conditions; and (b) examine sex differences.

Methods: In total, 360 children (47% boys) participated in at least one of three experimental conditions over six weeks (a) restricted physical activity (PA; indoor play); (b) imposed moderate-to vigorous PA (MVPA; sports class); and (c) imposed light PA (LPA; standing lesson). Prior to the first condition, children reported their 'usual compensation' behavior to examples of restricted/imposed PA and 2-3 days after each experimental condition they completed a recall measure of their compensation following the condition. Multilevel regression models were conducted to determine whether children's perceptions of 'usual compensation' score were associated with recalled compensation score following imposed or restricted physical activity. 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 following 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 non-significant.

Conclusions: These findings suggest some alignment between children's self-reported usual compensation and compensation recall following 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
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Mar 2023


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


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