RESEARCH – April 2014

Factors affecting leisure time physical activity and its relationship with chronic diseases

Authors: Ülle Parm, Anna-Liisa Parm, Kristina Kärk

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Introduction. High incidence of inactive lifestyle can lead to development of chronic diseases.

Aim. The aim of this study was to find out the level of leisure time physical activity in two generations of Estonians and its associations with chronic diseases. Also aspects that affect physical activity, associations between subjective self-estimation and real physical activity level; and differences between work time physical activity and leisure time physical activity were determined.

Methods. The questionnaire was carried out between October 2012 and November 2013 in four colleges and two universities of Estonia. The students and their parents were involved. Current and schooltime physical activity was classified into three groups according to the WHO recommendations, respectively: inactive – physical activity <150 and <7X60 minutes a week; and very active – physical activity >300 and >7×60 minutes a week. The average group was defined as the group with optimal or moderate physical activity.

Results. Altogether 318 students and 138 parents were enrolled in the study. Half (52.2%) and one third (30.9%) of the responders belonged to the current and school time optimal physical activity groups, respectively. Physical activity in later life was inf luenced by the level of schooltime activity; however, it seemed to tend toward extremes with ageing. Compared with physical activity in schooltime the responders had two times higher chance to belong either to the inactive group (OR = 1.83; 95% CI 1.39-2.41) or to the very active group (OR = 2.05; 95% CI 1.28-3.31).

The greatest motivation for physical activity in more active groups was interest in activity itself, in the inactive group the motivation was accompanied by body weight. The level of optimal work time physical activity favours leisure time activity, but if work demands more physical activity then inactivity in leisure time was observed. Of all the responders 38% had 201 chronic diseases: almost one third of the students and half of their parents. There were significantly less chronic diseases in the very active group compared with the inactive group (p<0.001) and the optimally active group (p = 0.003).

Conclusions. The study shows that the level of physical activity in later life is largely influenced by physical activity during school years. Chronic diseases are more frequent in the inactive group in compared with the optimally active and very active groups.