Weight status and perception barriers to healthy physical activity and diet behavior

Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Feb;32(2):343-52. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803707. Epub 2007 Aug 7.


Background: Physical inactivity and insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption are key risk factors for obesity and noncommunicable diseases. Weight perceptions may affect physical activity and diet behaviors. We report current prevalence estimates of Australian adults meeting recommended levels of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) (> or =150 min/week or more of at least moderate-intensity physical activity (including walking) on > or =5 days/week) and fruit (> or =2 servings/day) and vegetable (> or =5 servings/day) consumption for health benefits, by weight status and perceptions.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey analysis of data for 16 314 adults from the Australian National Health Survey 2004-2005. All variables were collected by self-report. Weighted estimates were age- and gender-specific, and data were analyzed using logistic regression with acceptable weight referent categories, adjusting for covariates.

Results: Among acceptable, overweight and obese adults, the prevalence of LTPA was 26.8, 26.1 and 19.3% for men, and 27.7, 23.7 and 19.7% for women, respectively. Approximately 55 and 15% of adults consumed sufficient fruit servings/day and vegetable servings/day, respectively, and less than 5% of adults met combined LTPA and diet guidelines. Overweight decreased the odds ratio for LTPA among women but not men, and obesity decreased the odds ratio for LTPA among both men and women. Overweight perception conferred odds ratios of 0.83 (95% CI 0.70-0.97, P=0.021) for overweight men, and of 0.74 (95% CI 0.62-0.88, P=0.001) and 0.69 (95% CI 0.59-0.80, P<0.001) for obese men and women, respectively; for LTPA, whereas no significant associations were found for acceptable weight perception. No consistent associations between weight status or perceptions and diet behaviors were found.

Conclusions: Overweight perception may be another barrier to physical activity participation among men and women with excess body weight. Public health strategies might need to focus on overcoming weight perception as well as weight status barriers to adopting healthy physical activity behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Overweight / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Vegetables