Prevalence of physical activity and inactivity among Saudis aged 30-70 years. A population-based cross-sectional study

Mansour M Al-Nozha, Hazzaa M Al-Hazzaa, Mohammed R Arafah, Akram Al-Khadra, Yaqoub Y Al-Mazrou, Mohammed A Al-Maatouq, Nazeer B Khan, Khalid Al-Marzouki, Saad S Al-Harthi, Moheeb Abdullah, Maie S Al-Shahid
Saudi Medical Journal 2007, 28 (4): 559-68

OBJECTIVE: To assess physical activity levels among Saudi adults, and to examine the relationships of physical activity with body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC) and obesity prevalence.

METHODS: Data taken from the Coronary Artery Disease in Saudis Study which is a National Epidemiological Health Survey carried out between 1995 and 2000. Participants included 17395 Saudi males and females aged 30-70 years, selected randomly using a multistage stratified cluster sampling technique. Leisure-type and sport-related physical activities including walking were assessed using an interviewed-administered questionnaire. The activities were classified into five intensity categories and assigned metabolic equivalents (MET) according to the compendium of physical activity. Based on the intensity, duration and frequency of physical activity, subjects were classified into active or inactive category.

RESULTS: Inactivity prevalence (96.1%) was very high. There were significantly (p<0.001)) more inactive females (98.1%) than males (93.9%). Inactivity prevalence increases with increasing age category, especially in males, and decreases with increasing education levels. Inactivity was the highest in the central region (97.3%; 95% CI = 96.8-97.8%) and the lowest in the southern region of Saudi Arabia (94.0%; 95% CI = 93.2-94.8%). Further, active individuals exhibited lower values of BMI and WC.

CONCLUSION: These findings reveal the sedentary nature of Saudi population. The overwhelming majority of men and women did not reach the recommended physical activity levels necessary for promoting health and preventing diseases. The high prevalence of inactivity among Saudis represents a major public health concern.

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