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    Pringle, Richard and Pringle, Dixie 2012. Competing obesity discourses and critical challenges for health and physical educators. Sport, Education and Society, Vol. 17, Issue. 2, p. 143.

    Malina, Robert M. and Little, Bertis B. 2008. Physical activity: The present in the context of the past. American Journal of Human Biology, Vol. 20, Issue. 4, p. 373.

    Stratton, G Canoy, D Boddy, L M Taylor, S R Hackett, A F and Buchan, I E 2007. Cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index of 9–11-year-old English children: a serial cross-sectional study from 1998 to 2004. International Journal of Obesity, Vol. 31, Issue. 7, p. 1172.

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    Biddle, Stuart JH Gorely, Trish and Stensel, David J 2004. Health-enhancing physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children and adolescents. Journal of Sports Sciences, Vol. 22, Issue. 8, p. 679.

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    Westerstahl, M. Barnekow-Bergkvist, M. Hedberg, G. and Jansson, E. 2003. Secular trends in body dimensions and physical fitness among adolescents in Sweden from 1974 to 1995. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, Vol. 13, Issue. 2, p. 128.

    Webb, Geoffrey P 2002. Obesity: a modern epidemic. Nursing and Residential Care, Vol. 4, Issue. 2, p. 68.

    Kaur, Baljit Kaur, Surinder Singh, S.P. Sidhu, L.S. and Kaur, Rupinder 2001. Secular Trends in Somatotypes among Female University Students. The Anthropologist, Vol. 3, Issue. 4, p. 257.

    Mulvihill, Caroline Rivers, Kim and Aggleton, Peter 2000. A qualitative study investigating the views of primary-age children and parents on physical activity. Health Education Journal, Vol. 59, Issue. 2, p. 166.

    Welsman, Joanne and Armstrong, Neil 2000. Physical Activity Patterns in Secondary School Children. European Journal of Physical Education, Vol. 5, Issue. 2, p. 147.

    Dufour, Darna L. 1997. NUTRITION, ACTIVITY, AND HEALTH IN CHILDREN. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 26, Issue. 1, p. 541.

    Craig Sharp, N.C. 1995. The Health of the Next Generation: Health through Fitness and Sport. Journal of the Royal Society of Health, Vol. 115, Issue. 1, p. 48.

  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: December 2011

3 - Physical activity levels – past and present


The problem about attempting a scientific discussion of ‘physical activity levels – past and present’ is that factual information is limited. Data which are valid generally, and which will tell us how active people were 20, 50 or 100 years ago, what sort of activity they indulged in, how it was influenced by socio-economic class or by age, and how this has altered at the present day, do not exist.

An attempt can be made to analyse the changing nature of occupations as far as physical activity is concerned, and the reasons why people might be active can be dissected out. Is activity enforced by the nature of the occupation or is it a freely chosen component of our leisure time? Or, indeed, do both sometimes operate together?

Although the reasons why some people are active are not a basic consideration of this paper, they obviously affect the level of activity and need to be discussed, even somewhat superficially. A basic assumption might be held that physical activity is natural and is beneficial for physical and psychological health at all ages.

Some reasonably persuasive evidence can be produced that such a view more or less fits in with the facts.

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Physical Activity and Health
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