Physical activity preferences, preferred sources of assistance, and perceived barriers to increased activity among physically inactive Australians

Prev Med. Jan-Feb 1997;26(1):131-7. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1996.9982.


Background: Participation in regular moderate or vigorous physical activity substantially reduces risk for all-cause and cardiovascular-disease mortality and confers other health benefits. Efforts to decrease the population prevalence of inactivity will have a greater impact if they are tailored to the needs and preferences of the community.

Methods: In the Pilot Survey of the Fitness of Australians, a questionnaire was administered to a randomly selected sample of 2,298 adults and included questions on the preferred sources of assistance or support to become physically active, preferred activities, and barriers to regular participation. The responses of those who were identified as insufficiently physically active (n = 1,232; 53.6%) were examined for men and women separately and for those aged 18 to 39, 40 to 59, and 60 to 78 years.

Results: The most-preferred activity was walking (38 and 68% of the youngest and oldest age groups, respectively). The most frequently cited barriers to more-regular participation in the youngest age group were insufficient time, lack of motivation and child care responsibilities. Among those aged 60 to 78 years, injury or poor health were the most frequently cited barriers to activity. The most-preferred source of advice or assistance changed with age: more than 50% of the oldest age group wanted advice from a health professional (compared with 22% of the youngest group) and the opportunity to exercise with a group was the most preferred source of support for the youngest age group.

Conclusions: The physical activity-related attributes of men and women and of younger and older age groups described in this study may be used to provide more relevant and appealing options for those who might otherwise be missed by "one-size-fits-all" physical activity promotion strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • South Australia
  • Sports
  • Walking