BACKGROUND: Despite the large number of studies and reviews available, the evidence regarding the biological determinants of physical activity (PA) is inconclusive. In this umbrella review, we summarized the current evidence on the biological determinants of PA across the life course, by pooling the results of the available systematic literature reviews (SLRs) and meta-analyses (MAs).
METHODS: We conducted an online search on MEDLINE, ISI Web of Science, Scopus, and SPORTDiscus databases up to January 2018. SLRs and MAs of observational studies that investigated the association between biological determinants of PA and having PA as outcome were considered eligible. The extracted data were assessed based on the importance of the determinants, the strength of evidence, and the methodological quality.
RESULTS: We identified 19 reviews of which most were of moderate methodological quality. Determinants that were studied most frequently among all ages and demonstrated evidence suggesting a positive association to PA were younger age, being male, higher health status, and higher physical fitness levels. Among adults, normal birth weight was found to be positively associated to PA with convincing strength of evidence, while findings among adolescents were inconsistent and with limited strength of evidence.
CONCLUSIONS: Different social or behavioral factors may contribute to the decrease of PA with age and among females versus males, and creating programmes targeted at diverse ages, female population, and adults with abnormal birth weight is recommended. Future studies should use prospective study designs, standardized definitions of PA, and objective measurement methods of PA assessment.