Few longitudinal studies of physical activity have included young children or used nationally representative datasets. The purpose of the current study was to explore patterns of organized physical activity for Canadian children aged 4 through 17 years.
Data from 5 cycles of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth were analyzed separately for boys (n = 4463) and girls (n = 4354) using multiple trajectory modeling.
Boys' and girls' organized physical activity was best represented by 3 trajectory groups. For boys, these groups were labeled: high stable, high decreasing, and low decreasing participation. For girls, these groups were labeled: high decreasing, moderate stable, and low decreasing participation. Risk factors (parental education, household income, urban/rural dwelling, and single/dual parent) were explored. For boys and girls, having a parent with postsecondary education and living in a higher income household were associated with a greater likelihood of weekly participation in organized physical activity. Living in an urban area was also significantly associated with a greater likelihood of weekly participation for girls.
Results suggest that Canadian children's organized physical activity is best represented by multiple patterns of participation that tend to peak in middle childhood and decline into adolescence.