Journal of Physical Activity and Health Publishes Special Issue on Youth Energy Expenditure

Since 2012, NCCOR has sponsored a Youth Energy Expenditure (YEE) workgroup to support research efforts to achieve consensus on methods and measures for establishing youth energy expenditure values. This is important for efforts to reduce childhood obesity because standardized measures to quantify the amount of energy children expend during physical activity have been lacking. These measures are vital for comparing the effects of physical activity interventions and for cost and benefit research.

Until recently, researchers studying children and adolescents have relied on the Adult Compendium of Physical Activities to translate the energy cost of various physical activities into standardized values. However, the energy costs of physical activity change as children grow and mature, making adult values inappropriate for youth.

To accurately establish values for younger ages, researchers need data on the energy expenditure of children and adolescents performing a wide variety of physical activities. To generate these data, the YEE workgroup issued a call for researchers to submit previously unpublished data on youth energy expenditure. The result is a special issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, entitled “New Data for an Updated Youth Energy Expenditure Compendium,” which was released July 11. On June 21, 2016, the guest editors will present the papers in this special issue during a webinar hosted by JPAH. To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

The special issue consists of 17 papers from four countries that each met rigorous requirements for measuring energy expenditure among the youth studied. The papers make an important contribution to the literature because they include youth from preschoolers to older teens, and they provide previously unavailable energy expenditure values across these ages and developmental stages. Another important contribution is that the papers include values for nearly 100 separate physical activities, substantially enriching knowledge about activities in which children and youth engage.

This special issue is just one of several interrelated activities that the YEE workgroup is pursuing in its long-term goal of creating a Youth Compendium of Energy Expenditure Values. In 2008, an initial Youth Compendium was published but it did not fully meet researchers’ needs because many of its values were based on values from the Adult Compendium. NCCOR recognized the importance of filling this gap and, and in 2012 it established the YEE workgroup. The workgroup has engaged in a number of interrelated tasks, in addition to the JPAH special issue:

  • Convening an expert group to chart a path forward. In 2012, an expert group met to begin preliminary planning for an updated Youth Compendium and to discuss ways of addressing methodologic challenges related to obtaining and calculating energy expenditure values from data on youth.
  • Determining the best metric to use for youth energy expenditure values. The workgroup has conducted several analyses to identify the best energy expenditure metric and determine ways to minimize potential confounders, such as age, sex, and physical characteristics. One analysis was published in PLoS One in June 2015, and a manuscript for the other analysis is under development.
  • Conduct a comprehensive literature search. This search was conducted to find newly published data on measured energy expenditure values for youth physical activities. This literature search is nearing completion.
  • Developing a website for the Youth Compendium of Energy Expenditure Values. This website is in the early development stage and will be released in the coming year.

Read the JPAH special issue.
Learn more about NCCOR’s Youth Energy Expenditure project.

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