Open Access Open Badges Research article

Physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors in a 40- to 42-year-old rural Norwegian population from 1975–2010: repeated cross-sectional surveys

Ane Kristiansen Solbraa12*, Ingar Morten Holme2, Sidsel Graff-Iversen34, Geir Kåre Resaland1, Eivind Aadland5 and Sigmund Alfred Anderssen2

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Teacher Education and Sport, Sogn & Fjordane University College, P.O. Box 133, 6851 Sogndal, Norway

2 Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Ullevål Stadion, P.O. Box 4014, 0806 Oslo, Norway

3 Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Nydalen, P.O. Box 4404, 0403 Oslo, Norway

4 Institute of Community Medicine, UiT The Artic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

5 Faculty of Health Studies, Sogn & Fjordane University College, P.O. Box 523, 6803 Førde, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:569  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-569

Published: 7 June 2014



Geographical differences in cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have been observed among Norwegian counties. Better long-term health status and higher physical activity (PA) levels have been documented in the county of Sogn & Fjordane compared with other counties. However, recent trends in CVD risk factors have not been documented. The aim of this study was to investigate the secular trends in leisure time physical activity (LTPA) and other CVD risk factors over a 35-year period in a rural population of 40- to 42-year-olds in western Norway and to compare these trends with national trends.


Data from eight cross-sectional studies from 1975–2010 (n = 375,682) were obtained from questionnaires and physical examinations and were analyzed using mixed model regression analyses.


Decreasing trends were observed for sedentary behavior (for women), moderate PA, smoking, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), high-density lipoprotein (HDL-c) and total cholesterol (TC), whereas increasing trends were observed for body mass index (BMI), triglycerides (TG), light PA, vigorous PA and sedentary behavior for men. Compared to the national trends, the trends in the 40-42-year-olds from Sogn & Fjordane were more beneficial in terms of TG, HDL-c and BMI but less beneficial in terms of SBP and DBP.


Over a 35-year-period, this study indicates that the LTPA level has been relatively stable in the county of Sogn & Fjordane. Upward trends were observed in light and vigorous PA, whereas a downward trend was observed in moderate PA. For sedentary behavior, an upward trend was observed in men, whereas a downward trend was observed in women. For smoking, BP and cholesterol decreasing trends were found, but increasing trends were observed in BMI and TG. Compared with the national data, the trends in Sogn & Fjordane were more beneficial for TG, HDL-c and BMI but less beneficial for BP.

Physical activity; Cardiovascular disease; Risk factors; Trends; Geographic variation