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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

The descriptive epidemiology of total physical activity, muscle-strengthening exercises and sedentary behaviour among Australian adults – results from the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Jason A. Bennie, Zeljko Pedisic, Jannique G. Z. van Uffelen, Joanne Gale, Lauren K. Banting, Ineke Vergeer, Emmanuel Stamatakis, Adrian E. Bauman, Stuart J. H. Biddle
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

JAB declares he has a research fellowship part-funded by Fitness Australia, a not-for-profit, member-based industry association representing the interests of over 30,000 Australian registered exercise professionals, fitness service providers and industry suppliers. SJHB declares he has been a consultant to Fitness First. JAB and SJHB can confirm that these funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. All other authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

JAB, ZP and AEB conceptualised the study and developed the initial research plan. JG and JAB conducted the data analysis. JAB drafted the initial manuscript. ZP provided expertise on the analysis and interpretation of data and assisted in drafting the manuscript. SJHB, JvU, LKB, IV, ES and AEB provided guidance on the study and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript for publication.



The current Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that adults engage in regular moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) and strength training (ST), and minimise time spent in sedentary behaviours (SB). However, evidence about the specific individual and concurrent distribution of these behaviours in Australia is scarce. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of MVPA, ST and SB in a national-representative sample of Australian adults.


Data were collected using face-to-face interviews, as part of the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey 2011–12. The population-weighted proportions meeting the MVPA (≥150 min/week), ST (≥2 sessions/week) and combined MVPA-ST guidelines, and proportions classified as having ‘low levels of SB’ (<480 min/day) were calculated, and their associations with selected sociodemographic and health-related variables were assessed using multiple logistic regression analyses. This was also done for those at potentially ‘high-risk’, defined as insufficient MVPA-ST and ‘high-sedentary’ behaviour.


Out of 9345 participants (response rate = 77.0 %), aged 18–85 years, 52.6 % (95 % CI: 51.2 %–54.0 %), 18.6 % (95 % CI: 17.5 %–19.7 %) and 15.0 % (95 % CI: 13.9 %–16.1 %) met the MVPA, ST and combined MVPA-ST guidelines, respectively. Female gender, older age, low/medium education, poorer self-rated health, being classified as underweight or obese, and being a current smoker were independently associated with lower odds of meeting the MVPA, ST and combined MVPA-ST guidelines. A total of 78.9 % (95 % CI: 77.9 %–80.0 %) were classified as having low levels of SB. Females, older adults and those with lower education were more likely to report lower levels of SB, whilst those with poor self-rated health and obese individuals were less likely to report lower levels of SB (i.e. SB = ≥480 min/day). A total of 8.9 % (95 % CI: 8.1 %–9.6 %) were categorised as individuals at potentially ‘high-risk’. Those with poorer self-rated health, obese individuals, those aged 25–44, and current smokers were more likely to be in the ‘high risk’ group.


The large majority of Australian adults do not meet the full physical activity guidelines and/or report excessive SB. Our results call for public health interventions to reduce physical inactivity and SB in Australia, particularly among the subgroups at the highest risk of these unhealthy behaviours.
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