Aim: To study the secular trend (time changes) in participation in leisure-time sports activities and in attitudes towards sports activities and physical education in a representative sample of Swedish adolescents between 1974 and 1995.
Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to 16-y-old girls and boys (n = 395 in 1974, n = 542 in 1995) to assess participation in leisure-time sports activity, attitudes towards sports activities and attitudes towards physical education at school. Height and weight were measured and body mass index (BMI) was calculated.
Results: Compared with 1974, more subjects in 1995 answered that they were engaged in leisure-time sports activities, and that they were members of sports clubs. BMI increased from 1974 to 1995. By 1995, adolescents participated in and had become more interested in individual sports activities, including keep-fit activities (e.g. strength training and aerobics) compared with 1974. A gender difference in the feeling of anxiety towards physical education, with more girls experiencing it, appeared in 1995, but not in 1974.
Conclusion: Although more adolescents participated in leisure-time sports activity in 1995 than in 1974, the lifestyle of adolescents between sports training sessions may have become more sedentary. This is negative in a health perspective, since the benefits of physical activity on health are largely correlated to the total energy expenditure. However, the increased interest in keep-fit activities is important, since these activities have the potential to be continued into adulthood.