Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Leisure time exercise and personal circumstances in the working age population: longitudinal analysis of the British household panel survey
  1. Frank Popham,
  2. Richard Mitchell
  1. Research Unit in Health, Behaviour and Change, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr F Popham
 Research Unit in Health, Behaviour and Change, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK; f.popham{at}


Objectives: Investigate the impact of social, economic, and family circumstances on participation in weekly leisure time exercise.

Design: Longitudinal regression analysis of the British household panel survey.

Participants: 9473 people (4521 men and 4952 women) giving 27 881 person years of responses across eight years and four survey waves.

Main results: There was considerable variation among people in regular exercise participation over time. Having children was associated with a reduced likelihood of exercise for both men and women, although there were sex differences in this association according to the age of the youngest child. For both men and women working long hours was associated with a reduced likelihood of exercise, as was having a lower grade job. Retired men and women were more likely to exercise, as were those who attended a fee paying school. There was no strong independent association between household income and exercise.

Conclusions: For most people, participation in leisure time exercise “comes and goes” rather than being something they always or never do. Those with time pressures from work or domestic life are less likely to participate in leisure time physical activity. There are important sex differences in the impact of having children, with women experiencing longer term detrimental effects. Working long hours reduces leisure time exercise participation. Opportunities for physical activity as part of our daily working routines should be increased.

  • exercise
  • socioeconomic factors

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: FP and RM are funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Health Department. These are the opinions of the authors, not the funders

  • Competing interests: none declared.

  • Ethical approval: the British household panel survey has adopted, in full, the ethical guidelines of the Social Research Association. No ethical approval was required for this secondary analysis

Linked Articles

  • In this issue
    Carlos Alvarez-Dardet John R Ashton