Physical activity over the life course: the effects of partnering and childbearing

Edith E. Gray, Australian National University
Sophie Pennec, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

This paper investigates how participation in physical activity changes over the life course, with an emphasis on partnering and childbearing. There are many benefits of physical activity, and it is important to understand why some people participate while others do not. Cross-sectional results typically show variation by sex, age, socioeconomic status, regional and cross-country differences. A small number of longitudinal studies have followed children through adulthood. These studies find that exercise habits formed when young influence exercise habits in adulthood. Studies also find that having a parent involved in exercise influences children’s physical involvement. Lunn (2010), using retrospective data, provides an analysis of exercise over the life course. He finds that participation peaks at about age 15. The decline is most notable for participation in team sports, where participation is highest in the high school years, particularly for females. While his findings emphasize the importance of preventing drop-out of physical activity in the ‘middle-ages’, he does not specifically examine the effect of having children on physical activity. We focus on the effects of partnering and having children on involvement in physical activity using HILDA (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) 2001-2014. HILDA is a longitudinal panel study of Australian adults aged 15+. HILDA contains annual prospective data. The survey collects information on education, socio-demographic characteristics, relationship status and participation in ‘regular exercise’. We will use longitudinal event-history analysis to examine ‘drop-out’ and ‘uptake’ of physical activity. Preliminary cross-section results show that, sex of respondent and education are associated with physical activity. Looking also at the age of the youngest child, there is also a clear pattern of an uptake in exercise when the youngest child turns 6. These results show that there is a likely effect of having children on physical activity for both mothers and fathers.

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Presented in Poster Session 2