Purpose: As a part of a nation-level research program, Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns, the aim of this study was to analyze age-related decline of physical activity among Finnish young people.
Methods: The number of subjects at the beginning of the study in 1980 was 2309, representing both genders and ages 9, 12, 15, and 18. The follow-up measurements were repeated in 1983, 1986, and 1989. Thus, the data cover ages from 9 to 27. To measure physical activity, a short self-report questionnaire was administrated in connection with medical examination. The questionnaire consisted of items concerning frequency and intensity of physical activity, way of spending leisure-time, and participation in organized sports. Using five items an index of physical activity was calculated.
Results: The results showed a remarkable decline after the age of 12 in frequency of physical activity and sport participation, in particular. The self-reported intensity of physical activity increased with age. In younger age groups, the boys were more active than girls according to all variables, but the decline of activity was steeper among male than female subjects, and after the age of 15 the female subjects participated in physical activity more frequently than male subjects.
Conclusion: Reasons for the decline need to be further studied, and interventions are needed to assist young people in maintaining healthful levels of physical activity.