Changes from 1986 to 2006 in reasons for liking leisure-time physical activity among adolescents

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Reasons for participating in physical activity (PA) may have changed in accordance with the general modernization of society. The aim is to examine changes in self-reported reasons for liking leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) and their association with self-reported LTPA over a 20-year period. Data were collected among nationally representative samples of 13-year-olds in Finland, Norway, and Wales in 1986 and 2006 (N= 9252) as part of the WHO cross-national Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study. Univariate ANOVAs to establish differences according to gender, year, and country were conducted. In all countries, 13-year-olds in 2006 tended to report higher importance in terms of achievement and social reasons than their counterparts in 1986, while changes in health reasons were minor. These reasons were associated with LTPA in a similar way at both time points. Health reasons for liking LTPA were considered most important, and were the strongest predictor of LTPA. The findings seem robust as they were consistent across countries and genders. Health education constitutes the most viable strategy for promoting adolescents' motivation for PA, and interventions and educational efforts could be improved by an increased focus on LTPA and sport as a social activity.

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