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Background:

We know very little about physical activity in children with long-term illness or disability compared with those children without disabilities. Previous studies indicate low physical activity levels among all adolescents.

Methods:

The sample consisted of Canadian (n = 2720) and Finnish pupils (n = 3459) approximately 13.5 and 15.5 years of age in general (mainstreamed) education. The study is a part of the Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) study. Nationally representative data were collected in 2002 using a standardized questionnaire. The moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity screening measure was used.

Results:

Approximately one-fifth of the pupils in both countries had a long-term disability, illness or medical condition. In both countries boys and girls with a long-term illness or disability were equally physically inactive, and adolescents with a long-term illness or disability were as physically active as those without disabilities.

Conclusions:

There is no difference between young people with and without long-term illness/disability, and between boys and girls, in relation to their physical activity. However, all of them fall short of recommended guidelines. This indicates that promoting a physically active lifestyle should be of high priority in the lives of young people.

Rintala is with the Dept of Sport Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Välimaa, Tynjälä, Villberg, and Kannas are with the Dept of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, and the Research Center for Health Promotion, Finland. Boyce and King are with the Social Program Evaluation Group, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.