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PLoS One. 2016 Apr 27;11(4):e0153225. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153225. eCollection 2016.

Pumping Iron in Australia: Prevalence, Trends and Sociodemographic Correlates of Muscle Strengthening Activity Participation from a National Sample of 195,926 Adults.

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Active Living & Public Health Program, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL), Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Federation University Australia, Faculty of Health, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.



The current Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults engage in regular muscle-strengthening activity (e.g. strength or resistance training). However, public health surveillance studies describing the patterns and trends of population-level muscle-strengthening activity participation are sparse. The aim of this study is to examine the prevalence, trends and sociodemographic correlates of muscle-strengthening activity participation in a national-representative sample of Australians aged 15 years and over.


Between 2001 and 2010, quarterly cross-sectional national telephone surveys were conducted as part of the Australian Sports Commission's 'Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey'. Pooled population-weighted proportions were calculated for reporting: [i] no muscle-strengthening activity; [ii] insufficient muscle-strengthening activity, and [iii] sufficient muscle-strengthening activity. Associations with sociodemographic variables were assessed using multiple logistic regression analyses.


Out of 195,926 participants, aged 15-98 years, only 10.4% (95% CI: 10.1-10.7) and 9.3% (95% CI: 9.1-9.5) met the muscle-strengthening activity recommendations in the past two weeks and in the past year, respectively. Older adults (50+ years), and those living in socioeconomically disadvantaged, outer regional/remote areas and with lower education were less likely to report sufficient muscle-strengthening activity (p<0.001). Over the 10-year monitoring period, there was a significant increase in the prevalence of sufficient muscle-strengthening activity (6.4% to 12.0%, p-value for linear trend <0.001).


A vast majority of Australian adults did not engage in sufficient muscle-strengthening activity. There is a need for public health strategies to support participation in muscle-strengthening activity in this population. Such strategies should target older and lower educated adults, and those living in socioeconomically disadvantaged, outer regional/remote and areas.

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