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BMC Public Health. 2008 Oct 22;8:367. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-8-367.

Adherence to physical activity recommendations and the influence of socio-demographic correlates - a population-based cross-sectional study.

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  • 1Unit for Preventive Nutrition, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institute, 141 57 Huddinge, Sweden.



Current physical activity guidelines acknowledge the importance of total health enhancing physical activity (HEPA) compared to leisure time physical activity or exercise alone. Assessing total HEPA may result in different levels of adherence to these as well as the strength and/or direction of associations observed between total HEPA and socio-demographic correlates. The aim of this study was to estimate the proportion of the population adhering to the recommendation of at least 30 minutes of HEPA on most days, and to examine the influences of socio-demographic correlates on reaching this recommendation.


Swedish adults aged 18-74 years (n = 1470) were categorized, based on population data obtained using the IPAQ, into low, moderately and highly physically active categories. Independent associations between the physical activity categories and socio-demographic correlates were studied using a multinomial logistic regression.


Of the subjects, 63% (95% CI: 60.5-65.4) adhered to the HEPA recommendation. Most likely to reach the highly physical active category were those aged < 35 years (OR = 1.8; 95% CI: 1.1-3.3), living in small towns (OR = 1.8; 95% CI: 1.1-2.7) and villages (OR = 2.4; 95% CI: 1.6-3.7), having a BMI between 25.0-29.9 kg/m2 (OR = 2.7; 95% CI: 1.4-5.3) having a BMI < 25 kg/m2 (OR = 2.5; 95% CI: 1.3-4.9), or having very good (OR = 2.1; 95% CI: 1.3-3.3) or excellent self-perceived health (OR = 4.1; 95% CI: 2.4-6.8). Less likely to reach the high category were women (OR = 0.6; 95% CI: 0.5-0.9) and those with a university degree (OR = 0.5; 95% CI: 0.3-0.9). Similar, but less pronounced associations were observed for the moderate group. Gender-specific patterns were also observed.


Almost two-thirds of the Swedish adult population adhered to the physical activity recommendation. Due to a large diversity in levels of physical activity among population subgroups, social-ecological approaches to physical activity promotion may be warranted.

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