Public Health Nutrition


Predictors of physical activity change during adolescence: a 3·5-year follow-up

Samuel C Dumitha1 c1 p1, Denise P Gigantea1, Marlos R Dominguesa1, Pedro C Hallala1, Ana MB Menezesa1 and Harold W Kohl IIIa2

a1 Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil

a2 Michael and Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, University of Texas Health Science Center – Houston, Huston, TX, and School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus and Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA


Objective To investigate the predictors of change in physical activity (PA) from early to mid adolescence in a cohort of adolescents.

Design Prospective, population-based birth cohort study. PA level was evaluated by means of questionnaire, and was analysed in continuous form (min/week) and as a trajectory (inactive–inactive, inactive–active, active–inactive, active–active) based on the cut-off point of 300 min/week.

Setting Pelotas, a city of 340 000 inhabitants in southern Brazil.

Subjects Adolescents (n 4120) followed from 11 to 15 years of age.

Results Maternal PA change and more exposure to outdoors were directly associated with a positive change in PA level (min/week) for both genders. Higher maturation status (among boys) and later menarche were also associated with positive PA change in min/week. Predictors to remain inactive were: maternal PA change (inverse association), more exposure to outdoors, higher socio-economic level, fear of living in the neighbourhood and non-overweight girls. Predictors to become inactive were higher socio-economic level among boys and increase in screen time among girls.

Conclusions The study demonstrates that social, family, biological, behavioural and environmental factors exert an important role in the PA change among youngsters as they move into adolescence. These findings may be relevant to the design of policies and intervention programmes aimed at promoting PA in teenagers.

(Received September 10 2011)

(Revised January 20 2012)

(Accepted February 24 2012)

(Online publication October 11 2012)


  • Motor activity;
  • Exercise;
  • Sports;
  • Adolescent;
  • Cohort studies


c1 Corresponding author: Email

p1 Correspondence address: Marechal Deodoro 1160, 3rd floor, 96020-220 Pelotas, RS, Brasil.