Overestimation of physical activity among a nationally representative sample of underactive individuals with diabetes

Med Care. 2012 May;50(5):441-5. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3182422a52.


Objectives: Using data from the national Health and Retirement Study, we sought to: (a) estimate the proportion of the US adults with diabetes above the age of 50 who do not meet physical activity guidelines but believe they are sufficiently active; and (b) examine demographic and health-related correlates of such "overestimation."

Research design: Respondents who were classified as underactive according to a detailed activity inventory but reported exercising at least the "right amount," were designated as overestimating their physical activity. Multiple logistic regression was used to examine the association of demographic and health-related correlates with the odds of overestimation.

Results: Fifty-four percent of the survey sample did not meet physical activity guidelines, and one quarter of this underactive group overestimated their physical activity. The adjusted odds of overestimation were higher among respondents who held the perception that they were about the right weight or underweight [odds ratio (OR)=2.42; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.49-3.94), who had good or better self-assessed diabetes control (OR=1.84; 95% CI, 1.12-3.04), and who were Black or Hispanic (OR=1.89; 95% CI, 1.13-3.16). Experiencing shortness of breath reduced the odds of overestimation (OR=0.34; 95% CI, 0.19-0.61).

Conclusions: Overestimation of physical activity is common among adults with diabetes, and is associated with the perceptions that one is about the right weight and that one has good control of diabetes, and with being Black or Hispanic. Clinicians should be aware that these factors may affect their patients' beliefs about how much physical activity is adequate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Data Collection / standards
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology*
  • Disclosure
  • Dyspnea / epidemiology
  • Dyspnea / ethnology
  • Dyspnea / psychology
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sedentary Behavior / ethnology
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology