Journal of sports sciences vol:25 issue:9 pages:1011-1024
Longitudinal studies provide unique opportunities but are also faced with several limitations. The purpose of this study was to document three of these issues ("imperfect'' design, evolution of data collection methods, representativeness) by means of the Leuven Longitudinal Study on Lifestyle, Fitness and Health (LLSLFH). The LLSLFH (1969-2004) comprises observations on males between 12 and 18 years and at 30, 35, 40, and 47 years, and on females at 16 and 40 years. In the most recent phase of the study, spouses and offspring were also included. The different phases and evolving research questions throughout the LLSLFH required an appropriate adaptation of the research design. The associated evolution of data collection methods largely reflects the changing ideas about physical fitness, body composition, and physical activity, the continuing search for new and better measurement techniques, and the need for adaptations with age. Ongoing study participants are representative in terms of body composition and, except for adolescence in males, also physical activity. No straightforward answer can be given concerning physical fitness. In both sexes, socio-economic status is above average. When informed about the possible "pitfalls'' of longitudinal research in advance, several measures could be taken to prevent or limit them as much as possible.