Background: A large proportion of European children, adults and older adults do not engage in sufficient physical
activity (PA). Understanding individual and contextual factors associated with PA behaviours is essential for the
identification and implementation of effective preventative environments, policies, and programmes that can
promote an active lifestyle across life course and can potentially improve health. The current paper intends to
provide 1) a multi-disciplinary, Pan-European and life course view of key determinants of PA behaviours and 2) a
proposal of how these factors may cluster.
Methods: After gathering a list of 183 potential PA behaviours-associated factors and a consensus meeting to unify/
consolidate terminology, a concept mapping software was used to collate European experts’ views of 106 identified
factors for youth (<19 years), adults (19–64 years), and older adults (≥65 years). The analysis evaluated common trends
in the clustering of factors and the ratings of the distinct factors’ expected modifiability and population-level impact on
PA behaviours across the life course. Priority for research was also assessed for each cluster.
Results: The concept mapping resulted in six distinct clusters, broadly merged in two themes: 1) the ‘Person’, which
included clusters ‘Intra-Personal Context and Wellbeing’ and ‘Family and Social Economic Status’ (42 % of all factors)
and 2) the ‘Society’, which included the remaining four clusters ‘Policy and Provision’, ‘Cultural Context and Media’,
‘Social Support and Modelling’, and ‘Supportive Environment’ (58 % of all factors). Overall, 25 factors were rated as the
most impactful on PA behaviours across the life course and being the most modifiable. They were mostly situated in
the ‘Intra-Personal Context and Wellbeing’ cluster. Furthermore, 16 of them were rated as top priority for research.
Conclusions: The current framework provides a preliminary overview of factors which may account for PA behaviour
across the life course and are most relevant to the European community. These insights could potentially be a
foundation for future Pan-European research on how these factors might interact with each other, and assist policy
makers to identify appropriate interventions to maximize PA behaviours and thus the health of European citizens.