Summary

This report presents results from a national physical activity survey of Australian adults conducted in November and December 1999. It covers current (1999) activity patterns and recent national trends. This report represents the most up-to-date information using recognised measures and methods to ensure comparable information on trends in physical activity.

A large and growing proportion of Australians see the health benefits of physical activity

88% of people believe that their health could be improved by being generally more active.

92% of people believe that health could be improved by participation in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.

There was an increase in overall knowledge of the health benefits of physical activity and awareness of physical activity messages between 1997 and 1999.

42% of people recognised the Active Australia tagline ‘Exercise—you only have to take it regularly, not seriously’.

Recall of ‘Rusty’, the 1999 International Year of Older People physical activity campaign, was 24% in those aged 60–75 years.

however, participation is declining…

The average number of times each week people participated in walking, moderate and vigorous leisure-time physical activity declined between 1997 and 1999.

The average amount of time people spent each week in physical activity declined between 1997 and 1999.

This finding held for participation in physical activity done in the ‘previous week’ and over a ‘usual’ week.

the proportion of physically inactive people is increasing…

The proportion of physically inactive Australians increased between 1997 and 1999 (13% to 15% respectively).

This increase in physical inactivity was greatest for those people aged 30–44 years

(12% to 17%), and among those people with tertiary levels of education (6% to 11%).

and the percentage of those achieving ‘sufficient’ levels of physical activity for a health benefit is declining.

Between 1997 and 1999 there was a decline in the proportion of Australians participating in ‘sufficient’ physical activity to provide a health benefit (62% to 57%).

The decline was seen for both men (63% to 60%) and women (61% to 54%). The decline was greatest for people aged 30–44 years (64% to 54%).

The proportion of people aged 60–75 years participating in ‘sufficient’ levels of activity did not change between 1997 and 1999.

Who achieved ‘sufficient’ levels of physical activity in 1999?

Participation at a ‘sufficient’ activity level for a health benefit was greatest among

18–29-year-olds (69%) and lowest among 45–59-year-olds (50%).

Men (60%) were more likely than women (54%) to participate at ‘sufficient’ levels.

For men, participation at a ‘sufficient’ activity level was greatest for those aged 18–29 years (74%) and lowest among those aged 45–59 years (50%).

Among women, participation at a ‘sufficient’ activity level decreased with age from 64% in those aged 18–29 years to 48% in those 60–75 years of age.

Participation at a ‘sufficient’ activity level increased with educational attainment.

Who is more likely to participate in physical activity?

Obese Australian adults were 50% less likely than other Australian adults to reach a ‘sufficient’ level of physical activity compared with those of healthy weight.

Older Australians were less likely to participate in ‘sufficient’ physical activity than younger people.

Women were 20% less likely to achieve ‘sufficient’ physical activity compared with men.

People with at least one child at home were 20% less likely to be ‘sufficiently’ active than those without.

People who did not recall the Active Australia slogan ‘Exercise—you only have to take it regularly, not seriously’ were 19% less likely to achieve ‘sufficient’ levels of physical activity than people who did recall it.

Do Australians intend to increase their participation?

In 1999, one-third of Australian adults said that they intended to become more physically active in the next month and 29% said that they were intending to become more physically active in the next six months.

Intentions to become more physically active were greater for women than for men, and decreased with age.