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Birth Weight, School Sports Ability, and Adulthood Leisure-Time Physical Activity

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel CooperORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Copyright © 2016 the Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health on behalf of the American College of Sports Medicine. Purpose This study aimed to examine the associations of birth weight with ability in school sports in adolescence and participation in leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) across adulthood and to investigate whether associations between birth weight and LTPA change with age. Methods Study participants were British singletons born in 1946 and followed up to age 68 yr (the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development). Birth weights were extracted from birth records. Teacher reports of ability in school sports were collected at age 13 yr. LTPA was self-reported at ages 36, 43, 53, 60-64, and 68 yr and categorized at each age as participating in sports, exercise, and other vigorous LTPA at least once per month versus no participation. Associations were examined using standard and mixed-effects logistic regression models. Results Relevant data were available for 2739 study participants (50.1% female). When compared with the low birth weight group (≤2.50 kg), those with heavier birth weights were more likely to be rated as above average or average at school sports (vs below average); fully adjusted odds ratio = 1.78 (95% confidence interval = 1.14-2.77). Across adulthood, those with heavier birth weights were more likely to participate in LTPA than those with low birth weight; fully adjusted odds ratio of LTPA across adulthood = 1.52 (95% confidence interval = 1.09-2.14). This association did not vary by age (P = 0.5 for birth weight by age interaction). Conclusions Low birth weight was associated with lower ability in school sports and with nonparticipation in LTPA across adulthood. Identifying the underlying developmental and social processes operating across life for low birth weight infants may inform the design of appropriate interventions to support participation in LTPA across life.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Elhakeem A, Cooper R, Bann D, Kuh D, Hardy R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise

Year: 2017

Volume: 49

Issue: 1

Pages: 64-70

Print publication date: 01/01/2017

Online publication date: 01/01/2017

Acceptance date: 01/07/2016

Date deposited: 24/01/2022

ISSN (print): 0195-9131

ISSN (electronic): 1530-0315

Publisher: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins


DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001077

PubMed id: 27580148


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