The evolution of sports: Age-cohort effects in sports participation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Participating in sports constitutes an important aspect of human activity. It has been argued that the tendency to take part in sports has evolved in a way as to enable men to signal their otherwise unobserved physical abilities to an interested audience of men and women. Based on this evolutionary logic, three hypotheses are derived: first, it is hypothesised that there is an age-cohort effect, namely that members of younger age groups participate more often in sports than members of older age groups. It is further hypothesised that there is an interaction effect between age cohort and sex, with younger men participating more often in sports than younger women, and with both sexes converging at older age cohorts. Finally, it is hypothesised that, since part of the motivation for doing sports is sexual, age-cohort effects will also be found in individual motives for participating in sports. For instance, younger individuals will be more motivated than older ones to participate in sports in order to enhance their appearance. Evidence from a sample of 27 European countries provides support for all three hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-370
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015


  • age-cohort effects
  • evolution of sports
  • sex differences
  • sexual selection
  • sports participation


Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution of sports: Age-cohort effects in sports participation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this