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Tracking of Physical Activity from Childhood to Adulthood


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2004 - Volume 36 - Issue 11 - p 1937-1943
doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000145525.29140.3B
Basic Sciences: Epidemiology

Purpose: To examine 1) relationships between adult PA at 35 yr and PA as a child, and 2) the influence of enhanced primary school physical education (physed+) and of parental PA upon the long-term tracking of PA in the offspring.

Methods: PA data from the 1970–1977 Trois-Rivières Growth and Development Study, completed when the children were aged 10–12 yr, were compared with PA data collected on 166 of the same subjects in 1996–1998, when aged 34.9 ± 1.1 yr. The weekly duration of total PA, intense PA, light PA, organized PA, and total sedentary behaviors other than sleep as a child were each correlated with a questionnaire assessment of total weekly PA as an adult.

Results: Considering males and females jointly, adult PA showed a significant but weak association with childhood PA, correlations for total PA, intense PA, light organized PA, and nonorganized PA amounting to r = 0.20, 0.18, 0.12, and 0.19, respectively. In males (N = 79), the total time spent during childhood in organized PA was associated with adult PA (r = 0.26, P < 0.05), due to students who received physed+ (r = 0.34). In females, also, a higher PA frequency as an adult was significantly associated with physed+. There was no association of PA patterns between children and their parents.

Conclusion: Our results suggest a positive impact of early required physical education upon adult PA but provide little evidence of an overall association between time spent in other categories of PA during childhood and PA as an adult.

1Department of Physical Activity Sciences, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, CANADA; and

2Faculty of Physical Education and Health, and Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, CANADA

Address for correspondence: François Trudeau, Ph.D., Department of Physical Activity Sciences, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 boul. des Forges, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières (Québec) G9A 5H7, Canada; E-mail:

Submitted for publication September 2003.

Accepted for publication June 2004.

This study was supported by grants from Fonds d’animation de la recherche, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (80%), and Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute no. 951Rl10 (20%).

©2004The American College of Sports Medicine