Adolescent physical activity (PA) levels track into adulthood. However it is not known if type of PA participated in during adolescence is associated with PA levels later in life. We aimed to identify natural groupings of types of PA and to assess whether number of years participating in these different groupings during adolescence is related to PA level in early adulthood.
673 adolescents in Montreal, Canada, age 12–13 years at baseline (54 % female), reported participation in 29 physical activities every 3 months over 5 years (1999–2005). They also reported their PA level at age 24 years (2011–12). PA groupings among the 29 physical activities were identified using factor analysis. The association between number of years participating in each grouping during adolescence and PA level at age 24 was estimated using linear regression within a general estimating equation framework.
Three PA groupings were identified: “sports”, “fitness and dance”, and “running”. There was a positive linear relationship between number of years participating in sports and running in adolescence and PA level at age 24 years (β (95 % confidence interval) = 0.09 (0.04-0.15); 0.08 (0.01-0.15), respectively). There was no relationship between fitness and dance in adolescence and PA level at age 24.
The association between PA participation in adolescence and PA levels in young adulthood may be specific to certain PA types and to consistency of participation during adolescence. Results suggest that efforts to establish the habit of participation in sports and running in adolescence may promote higher PA levels in adulthood.