Send to

Choose Destination
Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2002 Jun;12(3):179-85.

Stability of leisure-time physical activity during adolescence--a longitudinal study among 16-, 17- and 18-year-old Finnish youth.

Author information

Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Participation in physical activity during childhood and adolescence is frequently mentioned as one factor likely to promote a more active lifestyle in adulthood with its health benefits. We studied the changes in leisure-time physical activity pattern and self-reported fitness during a three-year period in adolescence and investigated whether the type of sports has an effect on stability of physical activity at leisure. A questionnaire with identical physical activity items was sent to Finnish twins on their 16th and 17th birthdays and 6 months after the 18th birthday. A total of 1338 boys and 1596 girls responded to all three questionnaires, with response rates of 73.6% and 86.5%. The proportions of very active adolescents and adolescents with very good self-reported fitness seem to be alike at each age. Among girls, 23.7% to 27.7% reported being very active (4-5 times a week) and 13.7% to 15.1% considered their physical fitness to be very good at the ages of 16, 17 and 18. Among boys, the comparable percentages were 31.5% to 35.5% and 30.6% to 34.4%. However, the longitudinal three-year follow up showed substantial changes over time among individuals from one physical activity group to another. Only 19.1% of boys and 11.2% of girls were persistent exercisers (i.e., very active on all three years) and 15.6% of boys and 5.1% of girls were persistently fit (i.e., very good self-reported fitness on all three years). Stability of leisure-time physical activity was highest among those who participated in several different types of sports. Among boys the proportion of persistent exercisers was highest for those who participated in cross-country skiing, jogging and body-building (22.0-41.5%) and among girls for those who participated in ball games (11.9-28.6%). Those who participated in organised sports were more often persistent exercisers than those who did not (odds ratio = 13.2 for boys (CI 9.4-18.7) and 8.9 for girls (CI 6.4-12.5)). Also, those who participated in organised sports were more often persistently fit (odds ratio = 7.3 for boys (CI 5.2-10.2) and 10.4 for girls (CI 6.4-16.9). Adolescents are recommended to participate in and try different types of sports, and especially for girls ball games would appear to favour long-term maintenance of leisure-time physical activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center