Longitudinal studies


The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute’s Longitudinal studies interview the same group of people over multiple time periods. Understanding long-term healthy active lifestyles through three waves of information from participants included in the CFLRI’s internationally renowned 1981 Canada Fitness Survey was the purpose of the Physical Activity Longitudinal Study (PALS).

The research goals of PALS were to understand: 1) the evolution of healthy activity lifestyles over a 20-year period; 2) how social and environmental supports influence participation; and 3) the long-term health outcomes of various lifestyle choices.

What is it?

PALS was the third study conducted on a cohort of participants from the 1981 Canada Fitness Survey.

How was it developed?

PALS was first established in 1981 to help governments to develop polices and strategies to increase the activity levels of Canadians. Indicators were chosen to determine physical activity patterns, measure fitness levels of Canadians, and understand why Canadians were active or not. Subsequent data collection was developed by a team of researchers to investigate long-term participation and its influencers based on an ecological framework.

How was data collected?

The first two waves were conducted by household interview and objective measurement. The first wave of data was conducted in 1981 as part of the Canada Fitness Survey. The second wave was conducted in 1988 and is better known as the 1988 Campbell Survey on Well-Being in Canada.  The third wave collected data via self-completed questionnaires, and was carried out over an 18-month period spanning late 2002 to early 2004.

We asked persons who participated in either the 1981 or the 1988 surveys to participate in the third wave. Their offspring who may not have been old enough to participate in 1981 or 1988 were also asked to participate. Telephone contact was made ahead of data collection to confirm the current address of participants.

What types of information were collected?

The PALS investigated participation in physical activity, as well as the availability of social and environmental supports for physical activity involvement. Other lifestyle behaviours and general health and demographic questions were also asked. The first two waves included physical measures.

  • Population rates of participation in physical activity and sport among those 10 years and older
  • Rates of participation in sport among children and youth (parental reports)
  • Population fitness levels (1981 and 1988)
  • Enabling and constraining factors influencing participation, including perceived barriers, self-efficacy, intention, etc.
  • Other lifestyle factors (sitting time, smoking, alcohol use)
  • Current health status
  • Measured height, weight, body fat, circumferences (1981 and 1988)
  • Blood pressure and resting and post-exercise heart rates (1981 and 1988).
What are the benefits of the research?
  • Ability to monitor trends in physical activity and fitness over time
  • Utilized an ecological framework to understand causal relationships between various factors and physical activity
  • Consistent methods producing irreplaceable trend data, allowing for assessment of impact of strategies/policies
  • Inform national and global knowledge base.