Background: The aim of this study was to explore long-term predictors of leisure time physical activity in the general population.
Methods: This study comprised 718 men and women who participated in the national Mini-Finland Health Survey from 1978-1980 and were re-examined in 2001. Participants were aged 30-80 at baseline. Measurements included interviews, health examinations, and self-administered questionnaires, with information on socioeconomic position, occupational and leisure time physical activity, physical fitness, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical functional capacity. Analyses included persons who were working and had no limitations in functional capacity at baseline.
Results: The strongest predictor of being physically active at the follow-up was participation in physical activity at baseline, with an OR 13.82 (95%CI 5.50-34.70) for 3 or more types of regular activity, OR 2.33 (95%CI 1.22-4.47) for 1-2 types of regular activity, and OR 3.26 (95%CI 2.07-5.15) for irregular activity, as compared to no activity. Other determinants for being physically active were moving upwards in occupational status, a high level of baseline occupational physical activity and remaining healthy weight during the follow-up.
Conclusions: To prevent physical inactivity among older adults, it is important to promote physical activity already in young adulthood and in middle age and to emphasize the importance of participating in many types of physical activity.