Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. 1992 April; 46(2): 114–119.
PMCID: PMC1059517

Physical activity at 36 years: patterns and childhood predictors in a longitudinal study.


OBJECTIVE--The aim was to describe the sex and socioeconomic differences in patterns of physical activity at work and in leisure time of men and women aged 36 years, and to investigate factors in childhood and adolescence which predict high rates of participation in sports and recreational activities in later life. DESIGN--Data collected in childhood, adolescence, and at 36 years on members of a national prospective birth cohort study were used. SETTING--The population sample was resident in England, Scotland, and Wales. SUBJECTS--A stratified sample of about 3500 men and women was studied regularly from birth until 43 years. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--More men than women reported high rates of sports and recreational activities, gardening, and do-it-yourself. In contrast women reported higher rates of bicycling and walking. Higher levels of education were associated with frequent participation in sports. Individuals often engaged in one type of activity without necessarily engaging in other types. Those who were most active in sport had been above average at sports in school, more outgoing socially in adolescence, had fewer health problems in childhood, were better educated, and had more mothers with a secondary education than those who were less active. CONCLUSIONS--Studies that examine the relationship between physical activity and chronic disease should consider a broad range of pursuits rather than extrapolating from only one area of physical activity, and in their explanations should take account of the possible role of childhood characteristics. The findings suggest the importance of developing skills and habits in childhood as well as of encouraging healthier exercise habits in adults who may have had few opportunities or low motivation previously.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.3M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Images in this article

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Paffenbarger RS, Hale WE. Work activity and coronary heart mortality. N Engl J Med. 1975 Mar 13;292(11):545–550. [PubMed]
  • MORRIS JN, HEADY JA. Mortality in relation to the physical activity of work: a preliminary note on experience in middle age. Br J Ind Med. 1953 Oct;10(4):245–254. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Paffenbarger RS, Jr, Wing AL, Hyde RT. Physical activity as an index of heart attack risk in college alumni. Am J Epidemiol. 1978 Sep;108(3):161–175. [PubMed]
  • Paffenbarger RS, Jr, Hyde RT, Wing AL, Hsieh CC. Physical activity, all-cause mortality, and longevity of college alumni. N Engl J Med. 1986 Mar 6;314(10):605–613. [PubMed]
  • Morris JN, Everitt MG, Pollard R, Chave SP, Semmence AM. Vigorous exercise in leisure-time: protection against coronary heart disease. Lancet. 1980 Dec 6;2(8206):1207–1210. [PubMed]
  • Powell KE, Thompson PD, Caspersen CJ, Kendrick JS. Physical activity and the incidence of coronary heart disease. Annu Rev Public Health. 1987;8:253–287. [PubMed]
  • Cooper C. Bone mass, muscle function and fracture of the proximal femur. Br J Hosp Med. 1989 Oct;42(4):277–280. [PubMed]
  • Wadsworth ME. Follow-up of the first national birth cohort: findings from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 1987 Apr;1(1):95–117. [PubMed]
  • Taylor HL, Jacobs DR, Jr, Schucker B, Knudsen J, Leon AS, Debacker G. A questionnaire for the assessment of leisure time physical activities. J Chronic Dis. 1978;31(12):741–755. [PubMed]
  • Cooper C, Wickham C, Coggon D. Sedentary work in middle life and fracture of the proximal femur. Br J Ind Med. 1990 Jan;47(1):69–70. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • LaPorte RE, Montoye HJ, Caspersen CJ. Assessment of physical activity in epidemiologic research: problems and prospects. Public Health Rep. 1985 Mar-Apr;100(2):131–146. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Aström J, Ahnqvist S, Beertema J, Jónsson B. Physical activity in women sustaining fracture of the neck of the femur. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1987 May;69(3):381–383. [PubMed]
  • Rodgers B. Behaviour and personality in childhood as predictors of adult psychiatric disorder. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1990 Mar;31(3):393–414. [PubMed]
  • Kuh D, Wadsworth M. Parental height: childhood environment and subsequent adult height in a national birth cohort. Int J Epidemiol. 1989 Sep;18(3):663–668. [PubMed]
  • Kiernan KE, Colley JR, Douglas JW, Reid DD. Chronic cough in young adults in relation to smoking habits, childhood environment and chest illness. Respiration. 1976;33(3):236–244. [PubMed]
  • Dishman RK, Sallis JF, Orenstein DR. The determinants of physical activity and exercise. Public Health Rep. 1985 Mar-Apr;100(2):158–171. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Armstrong N, Balding J, Gentle P, Kirby B. Patterns of physical activity among 11 to 16 year old British children. BMJ. 1990 Jul 28;301(6745):203–205. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Dallosso HM, Morgan K, Bassey EJ, Ebrahim SB, Fentem PH, Arie TH. Levels of customary physical activity among the old and the very old living at home. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1988 Jun;42(2):121–127. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group