It has been suggested that CVD has its origins in early life. An impairment of fetal growth and early postnatal nutrition may have programming effects on cardiovascular physiology. In addition, traditional risk factors for CVD may initiate the atherosclerotic process during childhood. We explored the effect of fat intake, physical activity and lipid profile in childhood, and birth weight, growth during infancy and breast-feeding on arterial stiffness in a cohort study of ninety-three 10-year-old children followed during infancy and re-examined at the age of 10 years. Arterial stiffness in two arterial segments (aorto-radial and aorto-femoral) was measured as pulse wave velocity. Arterial stiffness was inversely associated with physical activity (a regression coefficient in cm/s (95 % CI) of −6·8 (−11·2, −2·4) and −3·9 (−6·9, −0·8) per h of high physical activity/d in the aorto-radial and aorto-femoral segments, respectively). Arterial stiffness was also positively associated with dietary fat energy percentage (3·1 (95 % CI 0·9, 5·2) and 1·8 (95 % CI 0·2, 3·2) per fat energy percentage in the aorto-radial and aorto-femoral segments, respectively) but was not related to body composition, insulin resistance or lipid profile. Arterial stiffness was also positively associated with duration of breast-feeding for the aorto-femoral segment only (2·1 (95 % CI 0·4, 3·7) per month) but was not associated with growth in early life. In conclusion, patterns of physical activity and diet, and history of breast-feeding in infancy, have an influence on the stiffness of the large arteries in children. The long-term effects of this are unknown.