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Int J Behav Med. 2002;9(2):111-21.

Leisure-time physical activity behavior: structured and unstructured choices according to sex, age, and level of physical activity.

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  • 1Research Centre in Physical Activity and Leisure Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal.


The main goals of this cross-sectional survey were (a) to describe the associations between sex, age, and physical activity behavior and (b) to describe the age and sex-related associations with the choice of structured (formal) and unstructured (nonformal) physical activity programs. At baseline, data were selected randomly from 1,013 students, from the 7th to the 12th grades. A response rate of 73% (n = 739) was obtained. Accordingly, the sample of this study consisted of 594 adolescents (304 females and 290 males) with mean age of 15.9 years (range 13-20). Physical activity was assessed by means of a questionnaire. A questionnaire about leisure activities was applied to the sample to define the nominal variable "nature of physical activity." The data showed that significantly more girls than boys (p < or = .001) belonged to the sedentary group (80.7% girls) and low activity group (64.5% girls). Boys more frequently belonged to the more active groups (92.1%; p < or = .001). The older participants were more engaged in formal physical activities, whereas the younger mostly chose informal ones whatever their level of physical activity. There were more significant differences in girls' physical activity groups (chi 2 = 20.663, p < or = .001) than in boys' (chi 2 = 7.662, p < or = .05). Furthermore, active girls chose more structured physical activities than their sedentary counterparts (18.8% vs. 83.3%). However, boys preferred unstructured activities regardless of physical activity group (83.7% vs. 58.5%; p < or = .05). It can be concluded that as age increased, organized sports activities became a relatively more important component of total weekly activity for both male and female participants.

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