Recall data from a representative sample of 3080 adults in Ireland in 2003 is used to investigate transitions into and out of regular participation in sports and exercise--an important contributor to overall physical activity. The method produces a continuous picture of participation across the life-course, allowing key transition periods in the life-course to be identified and the determinants of transitions to be analysed with multivariate models. Late adolescence emerges as an important period, when many people drop out from team sports, especially females. Participation in adulthood mostly involves taking up individual sports and exercise activities. The likelihood of making this transition is strongly associated with socio-economic status. Transitions in activity during adulthood do not display significant sex differences, suggesting that the gender gap for involvement in sports and exercise has its roots in childhood. The method also allows age and cohort effects to be distinguished, revealing higher participation among more recent cohorts. The findings must be interpreted carefully, since they are reliant on the accuracy of personal recall. Yet they have implications for how physical activity policy applies over the life-course, suggesting possible returns to targeting lower socio-economic groups in early adulthood, to offering a broader range of activities to young females, and to researching and promoting those activities most likely to be of interest to current young adults as they age.
2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.