Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the 25-yr trends in leisure-time physical activity (LTPA), occupational activity (OPA), and commuting activity (CA) in the middle-aged population.
Methods: Six independent cross-sectional surveys were carried out at 5-yr intervals in the population living in eastern Finland (1972-1997). The common age range of the surveys was 30-59 yr, and the participation rates varied between 70 and 96%. LTPA, OPA, and CA were determined by a self-administered questionnaire. Based on their answers, the people were categorized into high, moderate, and low groups.
Results: The percentage of people who were completely sedentary during their leisure time decreased in both men and women. The estimated average 5-yr decrease was greater in women (-6%) than in men (-3%). Men showed only significant changes in high LTPA (+2.2%), whereas in women both moderate (+4.1%) and high (+1.8%) LTPA increased linearly. The percentage of people with low OPA linearly increased in both men (+3.5%) and women (+3.3%) The proportion of men with high OPA decreased in men (-3.2%) as well as in women (-2.6%). The increase in low CA in men (+5.9%) was twice as great as that in women (+2.6%). Men and women with high OPA increased their LTPA by the greatest extent. In both genders, the increase was almost twice as great as among groups classified as being less active during working hours. The prevalence of people who reported low in all three categories (OPA, LTPA, and CA) remained at the same level (6-8% in men, 7-9% in women).
Conclusion: The proportion of the Eastern Finnish populations classified as sedentary or having only moderate physical activity during their leisure time is still very high among both men (75%) and women (82%), even though the percentage of highly active people increased between 1972 and 1997.