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Open Access Research article

Is there a demand for physical activity interventions provided by the health care sector? Findings from a population survey

Matti E Leijon12*, Diana Stark-Ekman2, Per Nilsen2, Kerstin Ekberg3, Lars Walter4, Agneta Ståhle5 and Preben Bendtsen2

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University/Region Skåne, Malmö, Sweden

2 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Community Medicine, Social Medicine and Public Health Science, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

3 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Community Medicine, National Centre for Work and Rehabilitation, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

4 Centre for Public Health Sciences, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden

5 Department of Neurobiology, Health Care Sciences and Society, Division of Physiotherapy, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:34  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-34

Published: 25 January 2010

Abstract

Background

Health care providers in many countries have delivered interventions to improve physical activity levels among their patients. Thus far, less is known about the population's interest to increase their physical activity levels and their opinion about the health care provider's role in physical activity promotion. The aims of this paper were to investigate the self-reported physical activity levels of the population and intention to increase physical activity levels, self-perceived need for support, and opinions about the responsibilities of both individuals and health care providers to promote physical activity.

Methods

A regional public health survey was mailed to 13 440 adults (aged 18-84 years) living in Östergötland County (Sweden) in 2006. The survey was part of the regular effort by the regional Health Authorities.

Results

About 25% of the population was categorised as physically active, 38% as moderately active, 27% as somewhat active, and 11% as low active. More than one-third (37%) had no intentions to increase their physical activity levels, 36% had thought about change, while 27% were determined to change. Lower intention to change was mainly associated with increased age and lower education levels. 28% answered that physical activity was the most important health-related behaviour to change "right now" and 15% of those answered that they wanted or needed support to make this change. Of respondents who might be assumed to be in greatest need of increased activity (i.e. respondents reporting poor general health, BMI>30, and inactivity) more than one-quarter wanted support to make improvements to their health. About half of the respondents who wanted support to increase their physical activity levels listed health care providers as a primary source for support.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that there is considerable need for physical activity interventions in this population. Adults feel great responsibility for their own physical activity levels, but also attribute responsibility for promoting increased physical activity to health care practitioners.