Epidemiology of physical activity:
When we speak about epidemiology, we refer to the analysis on how everything related to health creates patterns in our society. It is a very useful science for public health research and policy decisions and it allows us to find the best methods to prevent disease.
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Physical activity recommendations in "Healthy People 2000" are to "Increase to at least 30 percent the proportion of people aged 6 and older who engage regularly, preferably daily, in light to moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day." However, only about 22% of adults are active at this level recommended for health benefits, 54% are somewhat active but do not meet this objective, and 24% or more are completely sedentary (ie, reporting no leisure-time physical activity during the past month).
Participation in regular physical activity gradually increased during the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, but seems to have plateaued in recent years.
Patterns of physical activity vary with demographic characteristics. Men are more likely than women to engage in regular activity, in vigorous exercise, and sports.
The total amount of time spent engaging in physical activity declines with age. And this is something we must change as soon as possible.Adults at retirement age (65 years) show some increased participation in activities of light to moderate intensity, but, overall, physical activity declines continuously as age increases.
African Americans and other ethnic minority populations are less active than white Americans, and this disparity is more pronounced for women. People with higher levels of education participate in more leisure-time physical activity than do people with less education. Differences in education and socioeconomic status account for most, if not all, of the differences in leisure-time physical activity associated with race/ethnicity.
Determinants of participation in physical activity:
Physiological, behavioral, and psychological variables are related to physical activity. A lack of time is the most commonly cited barrier to participation in physical activity, and injury is a common reason for stopping regular activity. Cigarette smoking is only weakly inversely related to participation in physical activity, but smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to drop out of exercise programs. Body composition (percentage of body fat) is not a powerful predictor of physical activity habits; however, persons who are obese are usually inactive.
An intention to exercise and awareness of the benefits of exercise are weakly related to participation in physical activity. Confidence in the ability to be physically active, perceived barriers to activity, and enjoyment of activity are strongly related to participation.
Low- to moderate-intensity physical activities are more likely to be continued than high-intensity activities. Self-regulatory skills, such as goal setting, self-monitoring progress, and self-reinforcement, contribute to continued physical activity.
A number of physical and social environmental factors can affect physical activity behavior. Family and friends can be role models, provide encouragement, or be companions during physical activity. The environment often presents important barriers to participation in physical activity, including a lack of bicycle trails and walking paths away from traffic, inclement weather, and unsafe neighborhoods. Excessive television viewing may also deter persons from being physically active.
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