Sibship, physical activity, and sedentary behavior: a longitudinal, observational study among Mexican-heritage sibling dyads. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Shared genetic and environmental factors suggest that family relationships are important predictors of obesity-related behaviors, yet little is known about how siblings influence physical activity and sedentary behaviors. This study examined physical activity and sedentary behavior between sibling dyads across summer and fall time points and determined if birth order and gender modify the relationship between sibling behaviors. METHODS: Mexican-heritage families residing in colonias along the United States-Mexico border were recruited using promotoras de salud to participate in summer and school year surveys. Eighty-seven sibling dyads had complete data for the physical activity sub-study: 21 older brother-younger brother, 21 older brother-younger sister, 23 older sister-younger brother, and 22 older sister-younger sister dyads. Physical activity and sedentary behavior were measured using a validated 7-day recall instrument to create summary measures of weekly active, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) metabolic equivalents (MET), sitting, and screen time minutes. We used linear regression analyses to examine changes over time and the association between older and younger sibling behavior. RESULTS: During summer, older siblings (mean age=11.2years) reported 1069 active minutes and 1244 sitting minutes per week; younger siblings (mean age=8.3years) reported 1201 active minutes and 1368 sitting minutes per week. Younger brothers reported fewer active minutes (mean=-459.6; p=0.01) and fewer MVPA MET-minutes (mean=-2261.7; p=0.02) of physical activity during the fall. Within all 87 dyads, older sibling physical activity was significantly associated with younger sibling active minutes (B=0.45;p=0.004) and MET-minutes (B=0.45;p=0.003) during summer but not fall; older sibling sedentary behavior was significantly associated with younger sibling sitting (B=0.23;p=0.01) and screen time minutes (B=0.23;p=0.004) during fall but not summer. After stratifying by gender dyad groups, younger brother behavior was strongly associated with older brother behavior at both time points. CONCLUSION: Younger siblings appear to emulate the physical activity behaviors of their older siblings during non-school summer months and sedentary behaviors of older siblings during school-time fall months, especially older brother-younger brother dyads. Family-based interventions to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior are growing in popularity, but more work is needed to understand the role of sibling influences.

published proceedings

  • BMC Public Health

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Ylitalo, K. R., Bridges, C. N., Gutierrez, M., Sharkey, J. R., & Meyer, M.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Ylitalo, Kelly R||Bridges, Christina N||Gutierrez, Mariela||Sharkey, Joseph R||Meyer, M RenĂ©e Umstattd

publication date

  • February 2019