Learn more about the measures of leisure time physical activity across selected CLOSER studies
For background detail on this domain of physical activity, click here.
Leisure time physical activity (LTPA) is the most frequently measured domain across the studies covered by this guide, with data collected at ages ranging from 4-69y across ALSPAC, MCS, BCS70, NCDS, and NSHD. For exercise-related questions, participants were often asked to indicate from a show card what activities they typically engaged in, and the duration and frequency of these. Additional LTPA questions captured participation in sports classes, involvement in sports clubs and teams, and use of recreational areas such as parks and playgrounds.
Click to see the cross-study data availability and comparability for each LTPA subdomain:
- Leisure time physical activity participation
- Use of parks and/or recreation facilities
- Participation in sports classes
- Participation in sports clubs/teams
ALSPAC 13y and BCS70 16y ask similar questions about sports engagement over the past weekend (ALSPAC: “Which activities did you do last weekend?”; BCS70: “Did you take any exercise last Saturday?”) with responses comparable on the activities engaged in (i.e. swimming, cycling, walking). These may therefore be comparable in terms of absolute physical activity levels. Since the MCS 14y question was on a different scale, it is only likely comparable in terms of relative ranking of activity levels (MCS: “On how many days in the last week did you do a total of at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity?”).
BCS70 30y, NSHD 31y, and NCDS 33y ask similar questions on general physical activity engagement (BCS70/NCDS: “Do you regularly take part in exercise/sport activities?” How often do you take part in these exercise/sports activities? When you take part in these exercise/sports activities, do you get out of breath or sweaty?; NSHD: “Please ring the codes below indicating any sports or keep fit activities you take part in and showing how often you do these things (during the season).”) with responses of frequency (monthly/weekly) and specific activities engaged in comparable across measures.
NCDS 42y and NSHD 43y each ask similar questions on general LTPA engagement (NCDS: “Do you regularly take part in exercise/sport activities?” How often do you take part in these exercise/sports activities? When you take part in these exercise/sports activities, do you get out of breath or sweaty?”; NSHD: “Do you regularly take part in any sports or vigorous leisure activities or do any exercises? (If yes please list) “How often do you do this? On average how long do you spend doing this?”) with responses of frequency (monthly/weekly) and intensity of specific activity engaged in comparable across measures. In contrast, BCS70 42y also asks a general question on LTPA engagement, but uses a different question and response scale (BCS70: “On how many days in a typical week do you do 30 minutes or more of exercise”; responses: none, less often, 2-3x month, 1x week, 1x week, 2-3x week, 4-5x week, daily).
BCS70 42y and NCDS 44y ask similar questions on specific activities in the past year (BCS70: “How often have you done each of the following sporting activities in the last 12 months?”; NCDS: “How often on average, did you do this last year?” “Average time per episode?”) with responses of frequency (monthly/weekly/daily) and specific activities engaged in comparable across measures.
NSHD 53y and NCDS 55y ask similar questions comparing the frequency (occurrences/week) of physical activity (NSHD: “In the last 4 weeks, have you taken part in any sports or vigorous leisure activities or done any exercises in your spare time, not including getting to and from work, for 30 minutes or more?”; NCDS: “Whether you take part in the following activities and frequently 1) Play sport or go walking or swimming; 2) Attend leisure activity groups such as evening classes, keep fit, yoga etc.”).
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ALSPAC 5y, 6y and MCS 5y, 7y, ask similar questions on park and recreational use (ALSPAC: “About how often does your child do the following… go to public park or playground”; MCS: “(How often do you..) ..take [^Cohort child’s name] to the park or to an outdoor playground?”) and can be compared in frequency (never, yearly, monthly, weekly, daily). These may therefore be comparable in terms of absolute physical activity levels.
BCS70 16y asks about past year trips (“Been in sports-community centre in last year? Number of times?”) and ALSPAC 18y (“In the last four weeks, have you been to or used the following things – Parks and other open spaces?”) may be compared in incidence of visiting recreational areas over the past month or year.
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ALSPAC 4y, 5y, 6y, 7y, 8y, 9y, 11y and MCS 5y, 7y, 11y ask similar questions about attending sports clubs and classes (ALSPAC: “About how often does your child do the following during term time… go to special classes or clubs for some activity (e.g. dancing, judo, sports)”; MCS: “On average how many days a week does [^Cohort child’s name] go to a club or class to do sport or any other physical activity like swimming, gymnastics, football, dancing etc?”) and may be compared in frequency (weekly/non-weekly; occurrences/week) levels.
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MCS 11y and ALSPAC 16y both ask questions on sports participation (MCS: “How often does she usually go out to youth, sports clubs or groups? What kind of club? What sports does she do?”; ALSPAC: “How often does she usually go out to youth, sports clubs or groups? What kind of club? What sports does she do?”) and are comparable in frequency (weekly/ non weekly). Since the NCDS 11y question was on a different scale, it is only likely comparable in terms of relative ranking of activity levels (NCDS: “Playing outdoor games or taking part in sports outside school hours”, responses: never or hardly ever, sometimes, often).
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Explore the other domains of physical activity & the comparability of measurements across studies:
- Summary of cross-study comparisons
- Occupational activity
- Active travel
- Domestic activities
- Sedentary behaviour
Learn more about the studies covered by this guide and their measurement of physical activity:
- 1946 National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD)
- 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS)
- 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70)
- Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)
- Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)
- Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS)
- Acknowledgements and copyright information for this guide
- References for this guide
- Download the full guide as a PDF
- Electronic appendix: Index of all documented measures
This page is part of the CLOSER resource: ‘Physical activity across age and study: a guide to data in six CLOSER studies’.