|Title||Tracking of physical activity from early childhood through youth into adulthood|
|Authors||Telama et al.|
|Journal||Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise|
|Web Link||Click here|
Why they did it?
Maintaining a physically active lifestyle across a lifespan - is a key component of optimal health and well-being. There is some evidence to suggest that high activity during early childhood (3-9 yrs) may ‘track’ into high activity during early adulthood (18-25 yrs). While in contrast, low activity levels during early childhood increases the risk of being inactive during early adulthood. However, a limitation of the studies which have tracked physical activity among children is that most have looked at children for a short 10-15 year follow-up period. For example, studies have typically followed adolescents aged 3-12 years and tracked their activity patterns into early adulthood (i.e. ages 15-25 yrs). There is no data which has looked at longer-term tracking. Developing an understanding of long-term tracking of physical activity behaviours is important because such information will guide health departments on whom to target in physical activity interventions. The aim of this study was to investigate the tracking of physical activity from preschool age (3-6 years) to mid-adulthood (25-50 years).
How they did it?
This study was conducted in Finland as a part of the Young Finns Study. This longitudinal study commenced in 1980, where 4,320 children aged 3 years and over were originally recruited from a random sample of the Finnish population. Initially, physical activity levels of 3-6 year olds was assessed by having child’s mother report their physical activity levels. Once the aged 9-18 years, participants reported their own physical activity by completing a self-report questionnaire. This assessed the frequency and intensity of leisure-time physical activity, participation in sports club training and competitions. Once enrolled in the study, participants were reassessed at 4 time points: 1986, 1992, 2001, and 2007.
What they found?
Data were available for 3,569 male and female participants, and the average time physical activity was tracked for was 29.6 years. For example, if a child was 3 years old when they entered the study, they were tracked until they were around 33 years old. Overall, the study showed that high activity levels among 3-6 year olds predicted high self-reported physical activity in youth and in young adulthood. The authors used a statistical technique to determine the correlation between physical activity level of the child, and how strong this is associated with physical activity in later life. A correlation of 0.00-0.10 means that there is no or a weak relationship between two factors and a correlation of 0.90-1.00 means there is a strong or perfect relationship. The correlation between activity levels of children and adults ranged from 0.47-0.92, which is classified as moderate-to-strong.
Ok, what does this mean to me?
This study was the first to show that physical activity during childhood is a predictor of maintaining activity in early to mid-adulthood. A limitation of this study was its reliance on self-reported physical activity levels. This technique often results in over reporting of physical activity levels. However, strengths of the study were a large sample and a long follow-up period. Overall this study provides evidence that active children make active adults. Fitness professionals should make everyone aware of the importance of maintaining a physically active lifestyle across a lifespan and delivery of Children’s services should be in line with the Children's Health & Fitness Services Guidelines.