Leisure Time Physical Activity in Young Adults Born Preterm

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To evaluate the amount of self-reported physical activity in young adults born prematurely compared with those born at term.

Study design

Unimpaired participants of the Preterm Birth Study (Preterm Birth and Early Life Programming of Adult Health and Disease) birth cohort study were studied at age 23.3 ± 1.2 (SD) years: 118 born early preterm (<34 weeks), 210 late preterm (34–36 weeks), and 311 born at term (≥37 weeks, controls). The participants completed a validated 30-item, 12-month physical activity questionnaire. The annual frequency and total volume of conditioning and nonconditioning leisure time physical activity and commuting physical activity were calculated and the data analyzed by means of linear regression.


Adults born early preterm reported a 31.5% (95% CI, 17.4–43.2) lower volume of leisure time physical activity (in metabolic equivalents [MET] h/year) and had a 2.0-fold increased OR (1.2–3.3) of being in the least active quintile than controls. Lower amounts of conditioning, nonconditioning, and commuting physical activity all contributed to the difference. In addition, early preterm participants undertook less vigorous physical activity (≥6 MET). No differences in physical activity were found between the late preterm and control groups. Adjustments for potential early life confounders and current mediating health characteristics did not change the results.


Young adults born early preterm engage less in leisure time physical activities than peers born at term. This finding may in part underlie the increased risk factors of cardiometabolic and other noncommunicable diseases in adults born preterm. Low physical activity is a risk factor for several noncommunicable diseases and amenable to prevention.

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