Prevalence of physical activity in European adults - Compliance with the World Health Organization's physical activity guidelines

Prev Med. 2015 Dec;81:333-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.09.018. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Background: Adults are recommended to engage in at least 150 min/week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (PA).

Purpose: This study aimed to examine the level of compliance with PA recommendations among European adults.

Methods: Using data from European Social Survey round 6, PA self-report data was collected from 52,936 European adults from 29 countries in 2012. Meeting PA guidelines was assessed using World Health Organization criteria.

Results: 61.47% (60.77% male, 62.05% female) of European adults reported to be engaged in moderate to vigorous PA at least 30 min on 5 or more days per week. The likelihood of achieving the PA recommended levels was higher among respondents older than 18-24. For those aged 45-64 years the likelihood increased 65% (OR=1.65, 95% CI: 1.51-1.82, p<0.001) and 112% (OR=2.12, 95% CI: 1.94-2.32, p<0.001) for males and females, respectively. Those who were high school graduates were more likely to report achieving the recommended PA levels than those with less than high school education (males: OR=1.19, 95% CI: 1.12-1.27, p<0.001; females: OR=1.13, 95% CI: 1.06-1.20, p<0.001).

Conclusion: Although about 60% of European adults reported achieving the recommended levels of PA, there is much room for improvement among European adults, particularly among relatively inactive subgroups.

Keywords: Cross-sectional study; Europe; Lifestyle; Physical activity guidelines.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Europe
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health
  • World Health Organization
  • Young Adult