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Participation in sport in childhood and adolescence: Implications for adult fitness

      Abstract

      Objectives

      To investigate whether participation in sport during the developmental stages of life is associated with cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in adulthood.

      Design

      Observational longitudinal study.

      Methods

      Participants were Generation 2 of the Raine Study. Questionnaires related to participation in sport were administered at ages 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17 years. These data were used to develop sex-specific trajectories of sports participation: (for males) Consistent Participators, Drop-Outs and Joiners; and (females) Consistent Participators, Non-Participators and Drop-Outs. At age 28.3 ± 0.6 years, participants completed a graded maximal exercise test (i.e. V̇O2peak test). A General Linear Model assessed differences in CRF between trajectories.

      Results

      402 participants n = 231 (57.5%) male, n = 171 (42.5%) female were included in the study. In males, Consistent Participators (all p < 0.001) and Joiners (p < 0.050) had greater fitness than Drop-Outs. In females, Consistent Participators had greater fitness than Non-Participators (p < 0.050), but there were no significant differences in fitness between Consistent Participators and Drop-Outs (p > 0.050) or Non-Participators and Drop-Outs (p > 0.050).

      Conclusion

      Participation in sport during childhood and adolescence is associated with greater fitness in adulthood, compared to individuals who never participate or those that cease participation in adolescence. A simple dichotomous question regarding sports participation over the childhood and adolescent period can be implemented to predict better fitness outcomes in young adulthood. Childhood and adolescence could be an opportune stage in life for parents, schools and governments to facilitate participation in sport and prevent drop out, as it may have an impact on long term risk reduction, with associated health and economic benefits.

      Keywords

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