Parental Physical Activity Associates With Offspring's Physical Activity Until Middle Age: A 30-Year Study

J Phys Act Health. 2017 Jul;14(7):520-531. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2016-0466. Epub 2017 Mar 14.


Background: Parents' physical activity associates with their children's physical activity. Prospective designs assessing this association are rare. This study examined how parents' physical activity was associated with their children's physical activity from childhood to middle adulthood in a 30-year prospective, population-based setting.

Methods: Participants (n = 3596) were from the ongoing Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study started in 1980. Participants' physical activity was self-reported at 8 phases from 1980 to 2011, and their parents' physical activity at 1980. Analyses were adjusted for a set of health-related covariates assessed from 1980 to 2007.

Results: High levels of mothers' and fathers' physical activity were systematically associated with increased levels of their children's physical activity until offspring's age of 24. Longitudinal analyses conducted from 1980 to 2011 showed that higher levels of parents' physical activity were associated with increased levels of physical activity within their offspring until midlife, but the association between parents' and their children's physical activity weakened when participants aged (P < .05). Covariate adjustment did not attenuate the association.

Conclusions: This study suggests that parents' physical activity assessed in their offspring's childhood contributes favorably to offspring's physical activity from childhood to middle age.

Keywords: children; community-based research; health behavior; sport psychology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors