Introduction/purpose: Despite a large public health interest in physical activity and its role in obesity and other chronic diseases, only few reports to date have addressed total levels and trends of physical activity. We have studied in a cross-sectional setting with a retrospective recall of physical activity an association of levels of total physical activity and different types of activities with age and with calendar-time.
Methods: In a population-based study of 33,466 men aged 45-79 yr in central Sweden, information on physical activity and other lifestyle factors was collected through a self-administered questionnaire. Level of total activity at ages 15, 30, and 50 yr was assessed quantitatively, based on six questions on different activities: work/occupation, housework, walking/bicycling, exercise, inactive leisure time, and sleeping. The physical activity levels were measured as metabolic equivalents, MET-hours per days.
Results: Total daily physical activity decreased at age 30 yr (-1.6%, 95% CI: -1.7, -1.4) and at age 50 yr (-3.9%, 95% CI: -4.0, -3.7) compared with age 15 yr. Total physical activity decreased over a period of 60 yr in all three separate age groups (-9.1% among 15-yr-olds, 95% CI: -9.8, -8.5; -2.3% among 30-yr-olds 95% CI: -3.0, -1.6; and -2.9% among 50-yr-olds, 95% CI: -3.4, -2.5).
Conclusion: These negative trends in physical activity observed by age and with time might explain the trends in increasing prevalence of obesity.