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Background:

Parents’ physical activity associates with their children’s physical activity. Prospective designs assessing this association are rare. This study examined how parents’ physical activity was associated with their children’s physical activity from childhood to middle adulthood in a 30-year prospective, population-based setting.

Methods:

Participants (n = 3596) were from the ongoing Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study started in 1980. Participants’ physical activity was self-reported at 8 phases from 1980 to 2011, and their parents’ physical activity at 1980. Analyses were adjusted for a set of health-related covariates assessed from 1980 to 2007.

Results:

High levels of mothers’ and fathers’ physical activity were systematically associated with increased levels of their children’s physical activity until offspring’s age of 24. Longitudinal analyses conducted from 1980 to 2011 showed that higher levels of parents’ physical activity were associated with increased levels of physical activity within their offspring until midlife, but the association between parents’ and their children’s physical activity weakened when participants aged (P < .05). Covariate adjustment did not attenuate the association.

Conclusions:

This study suggests that parents’ physical activity assessed in their offspring’s childhood contributes favorably to offspring’s physical activity from childhood to middle age.

Kaseva, Hintsa, Lipsanen, Pulkki-Råback, Hintsanen, and Keltikangas-Järvinen are with the Dept of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. Pulkki-Råback is also with the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. Hintsanen is also with the Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland. Yang and Tammelin are with the LIKES–Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health, Jyväskylä, Finland. Hirvensalo is with the Dept of Sport Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland. Hutri-Kähönen is with the Dept of Pediatrics, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland. Raitakari is with the Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland; and the Dept of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland.

Kaseva (kaisa.kaseva@helsinki.fi) is corresponding author.