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In International journal of epidemiology ; h5-index 76.0

BACKGROUND : Much of the population fails to meet recommended physical activity (PA) levels, but there remains considerable individual variation. By understanding drivers of different trajectories, interventions can be better targeted and more effective. One such driver may be a person's physical activity identity (PAI)-the extent to which a person perceives PA as central to who they are.

METHODS : Using survey information and a unique body of essays written at age 11 from the National Child Development Study (N = 10 500), essays mentioning PA were automatically identified using the machine learning technique support vector classification and PA trajectories were estimated using latent class analysis. Analyses tested the extent to which childhood PAI correlated with activity levels from age 23 through 55 and with trajectories across adulthood.

RESULTS : 42.2% of males and 33.5% of females mentioned PA in their essays, describing active and/or passive engagement. Active PAI in childhood was correlated with higher levels of activity for men but not women, and was correlated with consistently active PA trajectories for both genders. Passive PAI was not related to PA for either gender.

CONCLUSIONS : This study offers a novel approach for analysing large qualitative datasets to assess identity and behaviours. Findings suggest that at as young as 11 years old, the way a young person conceptualizes activity as part of their identity has a lasting association with behaviour. Still, an active identity may require a supportive sociocultural context to manifest in subsequent behaviour.

Pongiglione Benedetta, Kern Margaret L, Carpentieri J D, Schwartz H Andrew, Gupta Neelaabh, Goodman Alissa


Physical activity, exercise identity, identity, latent class analysis, life course perspective, narratives, natural language processing, sociocultural context