Tracking of physical fitness and physical activity from youth to adulthood in females

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jun;38(6):1114-20. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000222840.58767.40.


Purpose: To evaluate stability of physical fitness and physical activity from adolescence into middle adulthood in Flemish females.

Methods: Within the scope of the Leuven Longitudinal Study on Lifestyle, Fitness and Health, 138 females (mean age=16.6+/-1.1 yr) from the Leuven Growth Study of Flemish Girls were seen in adulthood (mean age=40.5+/-1.1 yr). Several body dimensions and motor fitness tests were taken. Physical activity was assessed by means of a sports participation inventory. Inter-age correlations were calculated between adolescent and adult values. Cross-tabulation was used to identify the percentage of subjects remaining in the same BMI and physical activity group or shifting from one group to another from adolescence to adulthood. Odds ratios for less activity and overweight in adulthood according to adolescent activity or weight status were calculated.

Results: Except for flamingo balance, plate tapping, leg lifts, and arm pull, all anthropometric and physical fitness characteristics were stable from adolescence to adulthood (r ranging from 0.49 to 0.96). Sports participation was not a stable characteristic (r=0.13). From adolescence to adulthood, 84.5 and 63.6%, respectively, remained in the normal-weight and overweight group, whereas 62.5 and 54.4%, respectively, remained in the less active and active group. The odds of being overweight in adulthood was 9.53 (95% CI: 3.1-29.8) times greater in overweight compared with normal-weight adolescent girls.

Conclusion: In Flemish females, anthropometric and fitness characteristics demonstrate higher levels of stability from adolescence to middle adulthood than physical activity. Weight status during adolescence is indicative of adult weight status, and a pattern of less activity rather than activity tends to continue from youth to adulthood.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Belgium
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Overweight / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Sports / physiology