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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Jul;48(7):1340-6. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000895.

Childhood Physical Activity and Adulthood Earnings.

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1LIKES-Research Center for Sport and Health Sciences, Jyväskylä, FINLAND; 2Jyvaskyla University School of Business and Economics, Jyväskylä, FINLAND; 3Department of Pediatrics, Tampere University Hospital, University of Tampere, Tampere, FINLAND; 4Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, FINLAND; and 5Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, FINLAND.



This study examined the associations between childhood physical activity level and adulthood earnings.


The data were drawn from the ongoing longitudinal Young Finns Study, which was combined with register-based Finnish Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data and register-based parents' background information from the Longitudinal Population Census of Statistics Finland. The study consisted of children who were 9 yr (n = 1257, 52% boys), 12 yr (n = 1662, 51% boys), and 15 yr (n = 1969, 49% boys) of age at the time when physical activity was measured. The children were followed until 2010, when they were between 33 and 45 yr old. Leisure-time physical activity in childhood was self-reported, whereas earnings in adulthood were register based and covered over a 10-yr period from 2000 to 2010. Ordinary least squares models were used to analyze the relationship between physical activity and earnings.


Childhood physical activity level was positively associated with long-term earnings among men (P < 0.001). In more detail, a higher level of leisure-time physical activity at the age of 9, 12, and 15 yr was associated with an approximate 12%-25% increase in average annual earnings over a 10-yr period. The results were robust to controlling, e.g., an individual's chronic conditions and body fat, parents' education and physical activity, and family income. Among women, no relation was observed.


The findings provide evidence that childhood physical activity can have far-reaching positive effects on adulthood earnings. Possibilities for improving physical activity during childhood may not only promote health but also affect long-term labor market outcomes.

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