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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Extra-curricular physical activity and socioeconomic status in Italian adolescents

Giuseppe La Torre1*, Daniele Masala2, Elisabetta De Vito3, Elisa Langiano3, Giovanni Capelli3, Walter Ricciardi1 and PHASES (PHysical Activity and Socio-Economic Status) collaborative group

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Hygiene, Catholic University Rome, Italy.

2 Faculty of Science of Human Movement, University of Cassino, Italy.

3 Chair of Hygiene, University of Cassino, Italy.

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:22  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-22

Published: 31 January 2006



The relationship between physical activity and health status has been thoroughly investigated in several studies, while the relation between physical activity and socio-economic status (SES) is less investigated. The aim of this study was to measure the extra-curricular physical activity of adolescents related to the socio-economic status (SES) of their families.


The survey was carried out by submitting an anonymous questionnaire to junior high school students in the following Regions: Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia, during the school year 2002–2003. Extra-curriculum physical activity was evaluated considering whether or not present and hours of activity weekly conducted. 2411 students agreed to participate in the study.


Participants were 1121 males (46.5%) and 1290 females (53.5%), aged between 11 and 17 years (median age: 12 years). 71.1% of the students reported to practice extra-curricular physical activity. Parents' educational levels and work activities play an important role in predicting students' physical activity, with the more remunerative activities and higher educational levels being more predictive.


The results confirm the relationship between adolescents' physical activity and their families' SES. In particular, a positive relationship between participation in extra-curricular physical activity and their families high SES was found.

These data will be useful for school administrators and for politicians in order to reduce the gap between adolescents from the least and most disadvantaged families.