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Open Access Research article

Educational differences in self-rated physical fitness among Finns

Kaisa R Pulkkinen1*, Tomi Mäkinen2, Heli Valkeinen2, Ritva Prättälä3 and Katja Borodulin1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chronic Disease Prevention, National Institute for Health and Welfare, PO Box 30, FIN-00271, Helsinki, Finland

2 Department of Health, Functional Capacity and Welfare, National Institute for Health and Welfare, PO Box 30, FIN-00271, Helsinki, Finland

3 Department of Lifestyle and Participation, National Institute for Health and Welfare, PO Box 30, FIN-00271, Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:163  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-163

Published: 22 February 2013

Abstract

Background

The high educated live longer and healthier lives when compared to the low educated. Physical fitness as a health indicator reflects the level of physical activity along with other health-influencing factors such as obesity, smoking, chronic diseases and individual training effects. Studies support that self-rated physical fitness correlates with objectively measured physical fitness well. However, the educational differences in self-rated physical fitness are not known.

Methods

Our aim was to study educational differences in self-rated physical fitness in Finnish population. The data were collected in 2007 for a cross-sectional population based National FINRISK Study. The analyzed data included 2722 men and 3108 women aged 25 to 74 years. Statistical method was ordinal logistic regression.

Results

Longer educational career was associated with better self-rated physical fitness. The educational differences in self-rated physical fitness were largely explained by health behavior. Leisure-time physical activity explained fully and body mass index partly the educational differences in self-rated physical fitness among men. The combination of body mass index, history of chronic diseases and smoking explained the differences fully among men and partly among women. Leisure-time, occupational and commuting physical activities, body mass index, history of chronic diseases and smoking together explained all educational differences in self-rated physical fitness among both genders.

Conclusions

Although educational differences in self-rated physical fitness were found, they were explained by health behavior related factors. Leisure-time physical activity offered the strongest single explanation for the educational differences in self-rated physical fitness. Thus, possibilities for leisure-time physical activity should be increased especially among the low educated.

Keywords:
Physical fitness; Physical activity; Socioeconomic position; Public health; Health