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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physical activity and optimal self-rated health of adults with and without diabetes

James Tsai*, Earl S Ford, Chaoyang Li, Guixiang Zhao and Lina S Balluz

Author Affiliations

Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA 30341, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:365  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-365

Published: 23 June 2010



Regular physical activity can improve people's overall health and contribute to both primary and secondary prevention of many chronic diseases and conditions including diabetes. The aim of this study was to examine the association between levels of physical activity and optimal self-rated health (SRH) of U.S. adults with and without diabetes in all 50 states and territories of the Unites States.


We estimated the prevalence of optimal SRH by diabetes status of 430,912 adults aged 18 years and older who participated in the 2007 state-based survey of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Prevalence ratios were produced with multivariate Cox regression models using levels of physical activity as a predictor and status of optimal SRH as an outcome variable while controlling for sociodemographic and behavioral health risk factors.


The prevalence of reporting optimal SRH was 53.3%, 52.2%, and 86.2% for adults with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and without diabetes, respectively. Also in the aforementioned order, adults who reported being active had an increased likelihood of 81%, 32%, and 18% for reporting optimal SRH, when compared with adults who reported being inactive.


Regular physical activity of adults, particularly adults with diabetes, is associated with optimal SRH. The findings of this study underscore the importance of advising and motivating adults with diabetes so that physical activity can be integrated into their lifestyle for diabetes care. Additionally, a population-based effort to promote physical activity in communities may benefit adults in general by improving their overall health and well-being.