To investigate the association between objectively measured maternal and preschool-aged children’s physical activity, determine how this association differs by demographic and temporal factors, and identify factors associated with maternal activity levels.


In the UK Southampton Women’s Survey, physical activity levels of 554 4-year-olds and their mothers were measured concurrently by using accelerometry for ≤7 days. Two-level mixed-effects linear regression was used to model the association between maternal and children’s minutes spent sedentary, in light (LPA) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Linear regression was used to investigate correlates of maternal activity.


Mother-child daily activity levels were positively associated at all activity intensities (sedentary, LPA, and MVPA; all P < .001). The association for sedentary time was stronger for normal-weight children (versus those who were overweight/obese), and those attending preschool part-time (versus full-time). The mother-child association for LPA differed by maternal education and was stronger at the weekend (versus weekdays). The opposite was true for MVPA. Sedentary time and MVPA were most strongly associated in mornings, with LPA most strongly associated in the evenings. Maternal BMI, age leaving school, number and age of children at home, and working hours were independently associated with maternal daily sedentary time and LPA.


Physical activity levels in mothers and their 4-year-old children are directly associated, with associations at different activity intensities influenced by temporal and demographic factors. Influences on maternal physical activity levels also differ by activity intensity. Providing targeted interventions for mothers of young children may increase both groups’ activity.

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