Physical activity and gender differences: correlates of compliance with recommended levels of five forms of physical activity among students at nine universities in Libya

Walid El Ansari, Khalid Khalil, Diane Crone, Christiane Stock
Central European Journal of Public Health 2014, 22 (2): 98-105

AIMS: This cross-sectional survey assessed and compared by gender the levels and correlates of achieving the international guidelines recommendations on five forms of physical activity (PA) (walking, moderate PA, vigorous PA, moderate or vigorous PA- MVPA, and muscle-strengthening PA). We examined the associations between achieving the international guidelines recommendations on five forms of PA and a variety of sociodemographic, health and academic performance variables.

METHODS: Data was collected across nine Libyan universities (2008-2009, representative sample of 1,300 undergraduates). A self-administered questionnaire assessed frequency and duration of PA/week for each form of PA. Cut-offs for recommended guidelines were set according to the American Heart Association.

RESULTS: About 43.7% of students achieved the guidelines for muscle strengthening PA, 20.7% for walking, 11.2% for vigorous PA, 28.5% for MVPA, and 4.8% for moderate PA (excluding walking). Binary logistic regression showed that except for walking, males were consistently associated with achieving the guidelines recommendations for all other forms of PA. Students with higher health awareness were more likely to achieve the guidelines for vigorous PA and muscle strengthening PA. Better academic performance was associated with higher levels of muscle strengthening PA. Students at institutions in the East of Libya were less likely to achieve the guidelines for walking, vigorous PA or muscle strengthening PA as compared to students from the North. Students from the West of Libya were also less likely to walk or to engage in moderate PA than their peers from the North.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, relatively low proportions of students achieved the recommended guidelines of PA. Female students were particularly at risk for low level of PA. Attention is required to national policies that promote active living, along with addressing the cultural, geographic and other barriers to engagement of young adult males and females in PA.

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