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Relation between self-recalled childhood physical activity and adult physical activity: The women's health initiative.

  • Author(s): Goodman, Deborah;
  • Park, Hannah L;
  • Stefanick, Marcia;
  • LeBlanc, Erin;
  • Bea, Jennifer;
  • Qi, Lihong;
  • Kapphahn, Kristopher;
  • Lamonte, Michael;
  • Manini, Tood;
  • Desai, Manisha;
  • Anton-Culver, Hoda
  • et al.


Evidence suggests that childhood physical activity may play a role in the etiology and prevention of adult chronic diseases. Because researchers must often depend on self-recalled physical activity data many years after the exposure, it is important to understand factors which may influence adult recall of childhood physical activity. This study evaluated the influence of adult characteristics on reported childhood physical activity and the association between adult physical activity and self-recalled childhood physical activity.


48,066 post-menopausal women from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study reported their physical activity level during ages 5 - 9, 10 - 14, and 15 - 19.


In this cohort, over 65% of the population reported the same category of physical activity over the three childhood age groups. While higher levels of childhood physical activity were significantly associated with higher adult physical activity, this association varied by race/ethnicity, education, smoking, body mass index, history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease, social support and physical functional status. Women who were consistently highly active reported adult physical activity levels that were 2.82 MET-hr/week (95% C.I. = 2.43, 3.20) higher compared to women who were always physically inactive during childhood.


It is important for researchers to understand the influence of adult characteristics on reported childhood physical activity.

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