Background: The rising prevalence of diabetes and obesity in India can be attributed, at least in part, to increasing levels of physical inactivity. However, there has been no nationwide survey in India on physical activity levels involving both the urban and rural areas in whole states of India. The aim of the present study was to assess physical activity patterns across India - as part of the Indian Council of Medical Research-India Diabetes (ICMR-INDIAB) study.
Methods: Phase 1 of the ICMR-INDIAB study was conducted in four regions of India (Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Chandigarh representing the south, west, east and north of India respectively) with a combined population of 213 million people. Physical activity was assessed using the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ) in 14227 individuals aged ≥ 20 years [urban- 4,173; rural- 10,054], selected from the above regions using a stratified multistage design.
Results: Of the 14227 individuals studied, 54.4% (n=7737) were inactive (males: 41.7%), while 31.9% (n=4537) (males: 58.3%) were active and 13.7% (n=1953) (males: 61.3%) were highly active. Subjects were more inactive in urban, compared to rural, areas (65.0% vs. 50.0%; p<0.001). Males were significantly more active than females (p<0.001). Subjects in all four regions spent more active minutes at work than in the commuting and recreation domains. Absence of recreational activity was reported by 88.4%, 94.8%, 91.3% and 93.1% of the subjects in Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Tamilnadu respectively. The percentage of individuals with no recreational activity increased with age (Trend χ(2): 199.1, p<0.001).
Conclusions: The study shows that a large percentage of people in India are inactive with fewer than 10% engaging in recreational physical activity. Therefore, urgent steps need to be initiated to promote physical activity to stem the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity in India.