Purpose: Noncommunicable diseases are emerging in developing countries. However, few studies have been conducted in those countries to evaluate the role of physical activity in the development of cardiovascular diseases. This study investigated physical activity and its relationship to risk factors for cardiovascular disease in a large population (N = 799) of civil servants from Benin City, Nigeria.
Methods: Physical activity levels were estimated by an interviewer-administered questionnaire, which determined the average hours per week over the past year spent in occupational and leisure activities. Time spent walking or biking to work was assessed as well. Other major measures included body mass index (BMI), waist-hip ratio (WHR), blood pressures, plasma insulin level, lipid profiles, and diet.
Results: More of the physical activity was attributed to occupational than to leisure activities. Compared with women, men had a higher activity level. No significant trend was observed across age groups. Male senior staff (a marker of higher socioeconomic status) had a lower physical activity level than male junior staff. Physical activity, especially time walking or biking to work, was inversely correlated with weight, BMI, WHR, blood pressures, insulin, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in men, while such correlations were not consistent in women. In multivariate analysis in men, blood pressure and insulin were independently associated with BMI but not with walking, while an independent inverse association was seen between walking and BMI.
Conclusion: Lack of physical activity was associated with adverse risk profiles for cardiovascular disease in this developing population.