Trends in physical activity behaviours and attitudes among South Australian youth between 1985 and 2004

Nicole Lewis, James Dollman, Michael Dale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Rising youth obesity is a serious public health concern. There is a widespread view that declining physical activity is contributing to this trend. A total of 929 young South Australians (age = 9-15 years) were surveyed in 1985 and 2004 on usual physical activity in several contexts, including attitudes to physical activity. Eight of 10 South Australian schools participating in the 1985 Schools Health and Fitness Survey were revisited in 2004. Comparisons were made on: organised sport, active transport, physical education (PE), playground activity, vigorous physical activity (VPA), total leisure-time physical activity (LTPA), and attitudes to PE and school sport. The questionnaire and method of administration were identical in both surveys. There were no differences between surveys in club and school sport participation, walking to school, and reported enjoyment of PE and school sport. In 2004 fewer children rode to school, but PE classes were more frequent. The percentage of children who 'sit and talk' during school breaks had increased, with a decreased percentage of older girls who 'run around' during school breaks. There was a significantly higher LTPA in MET.min in 2004 for boys, which was particularly evident at higher percentiles. There were no changes in mean or distribution of LTPA for the whole sample or girls. The percentage of respondents reporting ≥3 bouts of VPA in the previous week rose from 51% (1985) to 76% (2004). There is no consistent evidence of declining physical activity among South Australian youth. It is apparent that physical activity in some contexts has declined, while in other contexts levels are the same or higher than in 1985. This underscores the complex nature of physical activity and the influences on this behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-427
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


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