Insufficient physical activity

Based on self-reported data from the 2017–18 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey (NHS):

  • 55% of Australian adults aged 18 and over were insufficiently active
  • 51% of Australian adults aged 18–64 were insufficiently active and 72% of adults aged 65 and over were insufficiently active
  • women were 18% more likely to be insufficiently active than men after adjusting for age (Figure 1).

After adjusting for different population age structures over time, there was a 5.8% decrease in the proportion of adults who were insufficiently active between 2007–08 and 2017–18. However, rates have not changed since 2011–12 (AIHW 2019).

Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines provide recommendations on the amount and type of physical activity required for health benefits (Department of Health, 2019). Based on the guidelines, insufficient physical activity is defined here as:

  • adults aged 18–64 who did not complete 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity across 5 or more days in the last week
  • adults aged 65 and over who did not complete at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day on 5 or more days in the last week.

In 2017–18, the ABS NHS collected information for the first time on physical activity at work. Therefore, results for 2017–18 include physical activity at work. For comparability across the different NHSs, data for trends exclude physical activity at work.

Figure 1: Insufficient physical activity, by age and sex, adults, 2017–18

The bar chart shows the proportion of adults who were insufficiently active, by age and sex in 2017–18. Women were more likely to be insufficiently active than men (59% compared with 50%).

Variation between population groups

In 2017–18, after adjusting for different population age structures:

  • Australian adults living in the lowest socioeconomic areas were 1.3 times more likely to be insufficiently active compared with those living in the highest socioeconomic areas
  • there were similar levels of insufficient physical activity across remoteness areas
  • the proportion of Indigenous adults who were insufficiently active was similar to that of non-Indigenous adults, based on estimates from the 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) and 2017–18 NHS (Figure 2).

Comparable data on physical activity from the 2018–19 NATSIHS were only collected for non-remote areas and exclude physical activity at work. Results presented for non-Indigenous adults from the NATSIHS exclude remote areas and physical activity at work.

Figure 2: Insufficient physical activity among adults, by selected population groups, 2017–18

The bar chart shows the proportion of adults who were insufficiently active, by selected population groups in 2017–18. The proportion of Australians with insufficient physical activity was higher in the lowest socioeconomic areas, was similar for all remoteness areas and was similar for Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.