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What do adolescents want in order to become more active?

Kirsten Corder12*, Andrew J Atkin2, Ulf Ekelund13 and Esther MF van Sluijs12

Author Affiliations

1 MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge Addenbrookes Hospital, Box 285, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK

2 UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Box 296, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 0SR, UK

3 Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, PO Box 4014, Ullevål Stadion, 0806, Oslo, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:718  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-718

Published: 5 August 2013



Few large studies have examined adolescents’ views about increasing their physical activity (PA) to inform PA promotion. We assessed adolescent preference for activity type, co-participants, timing and location of PA promotion and examined patterns in their views by population subgroup.


Participants (n = 457) (Mean ± SD age: 14.3 ± 0.3 years; 45.2% male) responded to questionnaire items: “What activities would you like to try or do more often?” (yes/no to 6 activity types e.g. team sports) and “I would like to do more PA …” followed by options regarding co-participants, timing and PA location (agree/disagree to 10 items). Anthropometry, demographics, accelerometer- and questionnaire-derived PA were obtained. Logistic regression was used to examine differences in views by subgroup (sex, weight status, objective PA level, parental education (SES)).


Most adolescents wanted to increase participation in ≥1 type of PA (94.4%). Gym use (56.7%) and team sports (50.6%) were most popular. Girls were less likely to choose racquet sports (vs. boys OR; 95% CI 0.6;0.4-0.9) but more likely to select dancing (40.3;17.8-91.1). Preference for participation was positively associated with existing participation in a similar activity (all p < 0.02). More adolescents wanted to increase PA with friends (88.8%) than family (63.5%). A leisure centre was most popular for increased participation (81.0%), followed by home (70.0%). Participation during school time was less popular among girls (vs. boys: 0.6;0.4-0.9) and more popular among low SES participants (vs. high: 1.6;1.1-2.4). Overweight/obese adolescents were less likely to choose participation with friends (vs. normal weight 0.5;0.3-0.9).


Targeting adolescent PA promotion by subgroup and providing choice of PA type, co-participants, timing and PA location appears promising. Adolescents want to do more types of PA more often; interventions could increase opportunities and support to facilitate this.