Fit in 50 Years: Participation in High School Sports Best Predicts One's Physical Activity after Age 70

Dohle, Simone and Wansink, Brian, (2013) BMC Public Health, 13:1100.

13 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2013 Last revised: 29 Apr 2017

Date Written: December 13, 2013

Abstract

Background: The health benefits of physical activity are widely established, including decreased risk for disease and improved mental well-being. Yet many children, adolescents, and adults do not meet the minimum recommendations specified in current public health guidelines and physical activity is known to decrease during the life course.

Objective: To identify background or personality characteristics that predict whether a healthy 25 year-old would become a physically active 75 year-old. This could have powerful implications for targeting physical activity and health interventions.

Method: A unique data set was collected of 712 healthy United States males who passed a rigorous physical exam in the 1940s and who were surveyed 50 years later (in 2000). Their physical activity level after 50 years was correlated and regressed across a wide number of demographic, behavioral, and personality variables from when they were 50 years younger. Data was analyzed in 2012.

Results: In contrast to prior beliefs, self-rated personality profile as a young man had little predictive influence on later-life physical activity. Instead, the single strongest predictor of later-life physical activity was whether he played a varsity sport in high school, and this was also related to fewer self-reported visits to the doctor.

Conclusion: Encouraging systematic or frequent physical activity at a young age - whether through school sports or club opportunities - might be the best investment in long-term activeness. This is relevant at a time when funding for many sports programs is being eliminated and play time is being replaced with screen time.

Keywords: exercise; sports; athletes; retirement; veterans; high school athletics; football; basketball; baseball; track; elderly; physical activity

Suggested Citation

Dohle, Simone and Wansink, Brian, Fit in 50 Years: Participation in High School Sports Best Predicts One's Physical Activity after Age 70 (December 13, 2013). Dohle, Simone and Wansink, Brian, (2013) BMC Public Health, 13:1100. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2367324

Simone Dohle

ETH Zürich ( email )

Universitatsstrasse 22
CHN H75.3
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

Brian Wansink (Contact Author)

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

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