Physical Activity, Sleep, and BMI Percentile in Rural and Urban Ugandan Youth

Mary J. Christoph, Diana S. Grigsby-Toussaint, Rhona Baingana, James M. Ntambi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Uganda is experiencing a dual burden of over- and undernutrition, with overweight prevalence increasing while underweight remains common. Potential weight-related factors, particularly physical activity, sleep, and rural/urban status, are not currently well understood or commonly assessed in Ugandan youth. Objective The purpose of this study was to pilot test a survey measuring weight-related factors in rural and urban Ugandan schoolchildren. Methods A cross-sectional survey measured sociodemographics, physical activity, sleep patterns, and dietary factors in 148 rural and urban schoolchildren aged 11-16 in central Uganda. Height and weight were objectively measured. Rural and urban youth were compared on these factors using χ2 and t tests. Regression was used to identify correlates of higher body mass index (BMI) percentile in the full sample and nonstunted youth. Findings Youth were on average 12.1 ± 1.1 years old; underweight (10%) was more common than overweight (1.4%). Self-reported sleep duration and subjective sleep quality did not differ by rural/urban residence. Rural children overall had higher BMI percentile and marginally higher stunting prevalence. In adjusted analyses in both the full and nonstunted samples, higher BMI percentile was related to living in a rural area, higher frequency of physical activity, and higher subjective sleep quality; it was negatively related to being active on weekends. In the full sample, higher BMI percentile was also related to female gender, whereas in nonstunted youth, higher BMI was related to age. BMI percentile was unrelated to sedentary time, performance of active chores and sports, and dietary factors. Conclusions This study is one of the first to pilot test a survey assessing weight-related factors, particularly physical activity and sleep, in Ugandan schoolchildren. BMI percentile was related to several sociodemographic, sleep, and physical activity factors among primarily normal-weight school children in Uganda, providing a basis for understanding weight status in the context of the nutrition transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-319
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Global Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2017


  • nutrition transition
  • overnutrition
  • physical activity
  • sleep
  • sub-Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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