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Abstract Background Early puberty timing is associated with adverse health outcomes. We aimed to examine prospective associations between objectively measured physical activity and puberty timing in boys and girls. Methods In the UK Millennium Cohort Study, physical activity volume and intensities at 7 years were measured using accelerometers. Status of several pubertal traits and age at menarche were reported at 11, 14 and 17 years. Age at menarche in girls was categorized into tertiles. Other puberty traits were categorized into earlier or later than the median ages calculated from probit models, separately in boys and girls. Multivariable regression models, with adjustment for maternal and child characteristics including body mass index (BMI) at age 7 years as potential confounders, were performed to test the associations of total daily activity counts and fractions of activity counts across intensities (in compositional models) with puberty timing, separately in boys (n = 2531) and girls (n = 3079). Results Higher total daily activity counts were associated with lower risks for earlier (vs later) growth spurt, body hair growth, skin changes and menarche in girls, and more weakly with lower risks for earlier skin changes and voice breaking in boys (odds ratios = 0.80–0.87 per 100 000 counts/day). These associations persisted on additional adjustment for BMI at 11 years as a potential mediator. No association with puberty timing was seen for any physical activity intensity (light, moderate or vigorous). Conclusions More physical activity regardless of intensity may contribute to the avoidance of earlier puberty timing, independently of BMI, particularly in girls.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Epidemiology


Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication Date