Decline in physical activity often starts as early as age seven
While the level of physical activity varies between individuals, it can also vary within individuals during the life course. A recent study, carried out in collaboration between the University of Jyväskylä and LIKES Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health, systematically reviewed scientific articles identifying distinct subgroups of physical activity and the factors related to these subgroups in the general population in different countries during different life phases.
The proportion of the decreasingly active individuals was exceptionally high during childhood and adolescence. Drop-out from sport participation was prevalent in adolescence while the overall physical activity started to decline already around the age of school entry among highly, moderately and low active children. The studies using self-reported measures of physical activity reported the decline of physical activity to be initiated around the age of ten while studies using modern, objective measures of physical activity found the corresponding age to be as early as seven years of age.
“However, it seems that the physical activity level of those decreasing their physical activity does not approximate to the level of the inactive ones before reaching mid-age or old age,” says PhD student Irinja Lounassalo from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä. “Thus, despite the common declining tendency of physical activity throughout the life course, being physically active in childhood and adolescence may be of high importance since it can postpone the time of becoming inactive later on.”