Lifelong determinants of physical activity and sedentary behavior and their relationship with physical activity, health and wellbeing

Responsible leaders

  • Prof. Raija Korpelainen
  • Prof. Timo Jämsä


Regular physical activity (PA) promotes health and decreases mortality. Due to an increasingly sedentary population and the fact that even regular exercisers spend the majority of their day sedentary, the value of accumulating light intensity activity and decreasing sedentary time for health has emerged.  However, the relative and interactive associations between PA, sedentary behavior (SB) and health are not clearly understood. 

People’s participation in PA is influenced by multiple factors.  In addition to personal factors such as sex, age, and motivation, these factors include for example the built, natural and social environments in which they live. Spending time in green spaces promotes PA, health and wellbeingand the built environment has been suggested to be an important determinant of PA behavior. Longitudinal observational studies and experimental data from general population samples are needed to reveal these causal factors.

Currently, analysis of objectively measured PA data has been typically based on summarized metrics, such as number of steps or counts per minute, and there has been a lack of valid tools to measure activity across the full spectrum of behaviors. Advanced analytical techniques allow calculating multiple indices of intensity, duration, frequency, amount, pattern, fragmentation and sequences of activities and sedentary behaviors. Combination of these indices enables examination and designing of PA and SB and their patterns.

Most previous studies have used cross-sectional designs. These studies do not provide evidence of a causal relationship between factors and physical behavior. Longitudinal observational studies can identify factors that have strong causal associations with physical activity and inactivity. The Northern Finland Birth Cohorts provide unique possibilities to triangulate multi-faceted individual data on the level of lifelong exposures and trajectories of objectively measured physical behavior.

Aim of the study

The main purpose of these population based large birth cohorts study is to identify the lifelong determinants for physical activity and sedentary behavior at midlife using objective measurement of daily physical activity and sedentary time. This study includes many substudies. The aims of these substudies are:

  • Determinants and lifecourse trajectories of physical activity and sedentary behavior at midlife - a population based prospective birth cohort (NFBC1966) study with objectively measured physical activity

Funded by Ministry of Education and Culture (2015-2019).

This project combines longitudinal design, the large sample size, and subjective and objective measures of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB) to identify the lifelong determinants and trajectories for PA and SB until midlife. In addition, urban-rural differences and subjective well-being are studied. Read more on the specific aims of the study. Final Report available here.

Activity monitorsFoto: Vahid Farrahi
  • Lifecourse determinants of physical activity, sedentary behavior and wellbeing with special emphasis on built and natural environmental factors - Population based prospective Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study with objectively measured physical activity at midlife 

Funded by Ministry of Education and Culture (2018-2021) and Juho Vainio Foundation

The main purpose of this project is to identify the features of the built and natural environment associated with PA and SB and evaluate how changes in the built environment are associated with changes in PA and explore the lifelong determinants and trajectories of PA and SB in respect to residential environment. Linking whole life span data with the spatial determinants describing community and small area wellbeing from Geographical Information System (GIS) and objectively measured physical activity is unique. See 'The impact of built and natural environments on health' -video on Youtube. Read more on the spcific aims of the study.

word cloud on the reseach topic
  • Physical Activity for Cardiometabolic Health – Optimal physical activity and sedentary profile based on innovative machine learning and data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort study 1966, ACTICARD

Funded by Ministry of Education and Culture (2019->)

The main focus is on providing new information on the relationship between cardiovascular health and population and individual level PA revealed by objective monitoring. More specifically, the purpose of this study is to develop and validate advanced statistical algorithms for defining PA and sedentary behavior patterns and profiles, and to examine the association between PA and SB, and cardiovascular health and fitness. The prognostic value of PA for cardiovascular events will be monitored longitudinally. Read more on the specific aims of the study.

  • Societal and Economic impact of Physical Activity and Sedentary behavior (SEPAS)

Funded by Ministry of Education and Culture (2020->)

In this multidisiplinary study utilizing both expertise of economics and physical activity epidemiology population-based NFBC1966 data with objective measurement of PA and SB  and individual level information on the direct costs related to utiluzations of healthcare services and indirect costs related to ebsenteeism from work from Finnish popularion registers. Read more on the spesific research questions of the study.

SEPAS logo
  • Association between physical activity and inactivity to glucose metabolism disorders, cardiovascular health and mortality among older people - Cohort Oulu1945 study

Funded by Ministry of Education and Culture


    More information

    Raija Korpelainen, University of Oulu, Center for Life Course Health Research, P.o BOX 5000, FI-90014 University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, Phone +358 50 312 5746, raija.korpelainen at, raija.korpelainen at

    Timo Jämsä, University of Oulu, Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, P.o BOX 5000, FI-90014 University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, Phone +358 29 448 6001, timo.jamsa at


    Research Group