Background: Family involvement is an essential component of effective physical activity (PA) interventions in children. However, little is known about the PA levels and characteristics of PA among families. This study used a repeated measures design and multiple data sources to explore the variability and characteristics of weekend PA among families. Methods: Families (including a ‘target’ child aged 9–11 years, their primary caregiver(s) and siblings aged 6–8 years) were recruited through primary schools in Liverpool, UK. Participants completed a paper-based PA diary and wore an ActiGraph GT9X accelerometer on their left wrist for up to 16 weekend days. ActiGraph.csv files were analysed using the R-package GGIR version 1.1–4. Mean minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) for each weekend of measurement were calculated using linear mixed models, and variance components were estimated for participant (inter-individual), weekend of measurement, and residual error (intra-individual). Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) were calculated from the proportion of total variance accounted for by inter-individual sources, and used as a measure of reliability. Diary responses were summed to produce frequency counts. To offer contextual insight into weekend PA among family units, demographic, accelerometer, and diary data were combined to form two case studies representative of low and high active families. Results: Twenty-five participants from 7 families participated, including 7 ‘target’ children (mean age 9.3 ± 1.1 years, 4 boys), 6 siblings (mean age 7.2 ± 0.7 years; 4 boys) and 12 adults (7 mothers and 5 fathers). There was a high degree of variability in target children’s (ICC = 0.55), siblings (ICC = 0.38), and mothers’ MVPA (ICC = 0.58), but not in fathers’ MVPA (ICC = 0.83). Children’s weekend PA was mostly unstructured in nature and undertaken with friends, whereas a greater proportion of parents’ weekend PA was undertaken alone in structured settings. The family case studies demonstrated that in the selected cases MVPA levels and variability across weekends were contingent on mode of PA participation. Conclusions: These novel findings enhance understanding of the variability and characteristics of weekend PA among family units. The study demonstrates the utility of PA diaries in conjunction with accelerometers to provide understanding of the mode and contexts of out-of-school and family-based PA.
- Physical activity