Comparison of adult physical activity levels in three Swiss alpine communities with varying access to motorized transportation

Oliver Thommen Dombois, Charlotte Braun-Fahrländer, Eva Martin-Diener
Health & Place 2007, 13 (3): 757-66

STUDY OBJECTIVE: To compare physical activity levels of residents of three Swiss alpine communities with varying access to motorized transport and to investigate whether socio-demographic factors, the settlement structure or means of transport affect these levels.

METHODS: Between January and February 2004 a computer assisted telephone interview was conducted with 901 randomly selected adults aged 18 years or older living in three Swiss alpine communities. In particular, information on moderate and vigorous intensity physical activities and on transport behaviour was collected. Respondents were categorized as 'sufficiently active' or 'insufficiently active' according to self-reported physical activity.

MAIN RESULTS: People living in community 1 without access to motorized traffic were significantly more likely to be sufficiently active (Sex- and age-adjusted prevalences of sufficient total physical activity, 43.9% 95% CI: 38.3%-49.8%) compared to individuals living in the other two communities (community 2: 35.9%, 95% CI: 30.6%-41.6%, community 3: 32.7%, 95% CI: 27.5%-38.3%). The differences were due to higher levels of moderate physical activities. Vigorous physical activity levels did not differ between the communities. Community differences were explained by passive means of transport to work and for leisure time activities.

CONCLUSIONS: Although the environment encountered in the three alpine communities is generally conducive to physical activity the majority of the participants did not achieve recommended activity levels. Passive mode of transport to work and during leisure time was strongly associated with insufficient total physical activity. Walking and cycling for transportation is thus a promising approach to promote health enhancing physical activity.

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