Background: The individual physical activity level is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and death, as well as a possible target for improving health outcome. However, today's widely adopted risk score charts, typically do not include the level of physical activity. There is a need for a simple risk assessment tool, which includes a reliable assessment of the level of physical activity. The aim of this study was therefore, to analyse the association between the self-reported levels of physical activity, according to the Saltin-Grimby Physical Activity Level Scale (SGPALS) question, and cardiovascular risk factors, specifically focusing on the group of individuals with the lowest level of self-reported PA.
Methods: We used cross sectional data from the Intergene study, a random sample of inhabitants from the western part of Sweden, totalling 3588 (1685 men and 1903 women, mean age 52 and 51). Metabolic measurements, including serum-cholesterol, serum-triglycerides, fasting plasma-glucose, waist circumference, blood pressure and resting heart rate, as well as smoking and self-reported stress were related to the self-reported physical activity level, according to the modernized version of the SGPALS 4-level scale.
Results: There was a strong negative association between the self-reported physical activity level, and smoking, weight, waist circumference, resting heart rate, as well as to the levels of fasting plasma-glucose, serum-triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and self-reported stress and a positive association with the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL). The individuals reporting the lowest level of PA (SGPALS, level 1) had the highest odds-ratios (OR) for having pre-defined levels of abnormal risk factors, such as being overweight (men OR 2.19, 95% CI: 1.51-3.19; women OR 2.57, 95 % CI: 1.78-3.73), having an increased waist circumference (men OR 3.76, 95 % CI: 2.61-5.43; women OR 2.91, 95% CI: 1.94-4.35) and for reporting stress (men OR 3.59, 95 % CI: 2.34-5.49; women OR 1.25, 95% CI: 0.79-1.98), compared to the most active individuals, but also showed increased OR for most other risk factors analyzed above.
Conclusion: The self-reported PA-level according to the modernized Saltin-Grimby Physical Activity Level Scale, SGPALS, is associated with the presence of many cardiovascular risk factors, with the most inactive individuals having the highest risk factor profile, including self-reported stress. We propose that the present SGPALS may be used as an additional, simple tool in a routine risk assessment in e.g. primary care, to identify inactive individuals, with a higher risk profile.