University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 9.12.2016 Lic.Ph. Susanna Takalo (Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences Master of Health, Sport Pedagogy)

Start date: Dec 09, 2016 12:00 PM

End date: Dec 09, 2016 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Liikunta, L303

Susanna TakaloLic.Ph. Susanna Takalodefends her doctoral dissertation in Sport Pedagogy "Mikä nuorta liikuttaa? Tutkimus liikuntatottumusten rakentumisesta lapsesta nuoreksi aikuiseksi" (What moves young people? A study on the development of physical activity habits from childhood to young adulthood). Opponent Professor Pasi Koski (University of Turku and custos Professor Arja Sääkslahti (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


The study describes the development of physical activity habits among adolescents engaged in different levels of physical activity as children during their growth from childhood to young adulthood. The participants’ experiences are examined individually from a life course point of view while taking into account their overall situation in life. The purpose of the study was to examine the changes in physical activity over the course of life and how young people describe the life experiences that have changed their physical activity habits. In addition, the study describes the role of physical activity in the daily life of a young person.

The retrospective longitudinal study consisted of two separate stages of data collection from the same people in 2001 and in 2011–2012. The first stage (at age 11) questionnaire data on physical activity (n=240) were collected in the Oulu, Jyväskylä and Turku regions. The interview data (n=24, high activity 12, low activity 12) were collected by me in the Oulu and Jyväskylä regions. Among the participants in the second stage at age 21, six had been recognised as belonging to the high activity group and five to the low activity group at age 11. This participant group included six boys and five girls. Data collection methods in the second stage consisted of an interview, a questionnaire, an activity diary, accelerometer measurement and a graph depicting physical activity during the life course. I analysed the interview data using a narrative method, supplemented with supporting data.

The life course stories showed that the amount of physical activity varied throughout adolescence. People with a high level of physical activity in childhood may, after a less active period, increase their activity level again as they approach adulthood. The physical activity level of a person with low activity in childhood may also increase during adolescence. The social environments of childhood and adolescence have an impact on how physical activity habits are built. The meanings of physical activities and the turning points in physical activity levels were manifold, depending on the role of physical activity in a young person’s daily life. A positive change in the activity levels was linked to determined efforts to play more sports, choosing active commuting, the beginning of comprehensive school, increased stability in life, family, friends, and participation in the activities of a sports club. Decreased activity levels were linked to an increased focus on studies, injuries, purchasing a moped, moving out of one’s childhood home right after comprehensive school, quitting a team and being bullied. Moving to a new place of residence, physical education at school, military service, working life and dating turned out to be causes of either increased or decreased physical activity levels. The role of physical activity in a young person’s life was defined by self-imposed goals, awareness of the significance of exercise, and especially the everyday choices that seemed meaningful at any particular time.

The measures to increase the amount of physical activity should reach all individuals in the same age group, but they should also take into consideration the differences in how young people exercise in their everyday lives and the different meanings they give to physical activity at different times in the course of their lives. The study showed that one’s physical activity level can be raised in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. From the life course perspective, school reaches nearly all members of an age group. The capacity of schools to help build physical activity habits could be reinforced.

Key words: life course, narrative, physical activity, change, a young person

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Susanna Takalo
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