Physical Activity Patterns of the Spanish Population Are Mostly Determined by Sex and Age: Findings in the ANIBES Study

PLoS One. 2016 Feb 25;11(2):e0149969. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149969. eCollection 2016.


Background: Representative data for the Spanish population regarding physical activity (PA) behaviors are scarce and seldom comparable due to methodological inconsistencies.

Aim: Our objectives were to describe the PA behavior by means of the standardized self-reported International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and to know the proportion of the Spanish population meeting and not meeting international PA recommendations.

Material and methods: PA was assessed using the IPAQ in a representative sample of 2285 individuals (males, 50.4%) aged 9-75 years and living in municipalities of at least 2,000 inhabitants. Data were analyzed according to: age groups 9-12, 13-17, 18-64, and 65-75 years; sex; geographical distribution; locality size and educational levels.

Results: Mean total PA was 868.8±660.9 min/wk, mean vigorous PA 146.4±254.1 min/wk, and mean moderate PA 398.1±408.0 min/wk, showing significant differences between sexes (p<0.05). Children performed higher moderate-vigorous PA than adolescents and seniors (p<0.05), and adults than adolescents and seniors (p<0.05). Compared to recommendations, 36.2% of adults performed <150 min/week of moderate PA, 65.4% <75 min/week of vigorous PA and 27.0% did not perform any PA at all, presenting significant differences between sexes (p<0.05). A total of 55.4% of children and adolescents performed less than 420 min/week of MVPA, being higher in the later (62.6%) than in the former (48.4%). Highest non-compliance was observed in adolescent females (86.5%).

Conclusion: Sex and age are the main influencing factors on PA in the Spanish population. Males engage in more vigorous and light PA overall, whereas females perform more moderate PA. PA behavior differs between age groups and no clear lineal increase with age could be observed. Twenty-seven percent of adults and 55.4% of children and adolescents do not meet international PA recommendations. Identified target groups should be addressed to increase PA in the Spanish population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • Spain
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The ANIBES study was financially supported by a grant from Coca-Cola Iberia through an agreement with the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN). The funding sponsor had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.