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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Individual, social, environmental, and physical environmental correlates with physical activity among Canadians: a cross-sectional study

Sai Yi Pan1*, Christine Cameron2, Marie DesMeules1, Howard Morrison3, Cora Lynn Craig24 and XiaoHong Jiang1

Author Affiliations

1 Evidence and Risk Assessment Division, Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

2 Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada

3 Science Office, Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

4 Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-21

Published: 16 January 2009



The identification of various individual, social and physical environmental factors affecting physical activity (PA) behavior in Canada can help in the development of more tailored intervention strategies for promoting higher PA levels in Canada. This study examined the influences of various individual, social and physical environmental factors on PA participation by gender, age and socioeconomic status, using data from the 2002 nationwide survey of the Physical Activity Monitor.


In 2002, 5,167 Canadians aged 15–79 years, selected by random-digit dialling from household-based telephone exchanges, completed a telephone survey. The short version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire was used to collect information on total physical activity. The effects of socio-economical status, self-rated health, self-efficacy, intention, perceived barriers to PA, health benefits of PA, social support, and facility availability on PA level were examined by multiple logistic regression analyses.


Self-efficacy and intention were the strongest correlates and had the greatest effect on PA. Family income, self-rated health and perceived barriers were also consistently associated with PA. The effects of the perceived health benefits, education and family income were more salient to older people, whereas the influence of education was more important to women and the influence of perceived barriers was more salient to women and younger people. Facility availability was more strongly associated with PA among people with a university degree than among people with a lower education level. However, social support was not significantly related to PA in any subgroup.


This study suggests that PA promotion strategies should be tailored to enhance people's confidence to engage in PA, motivate people to be more active, educate people on PA's health benefits and reduce barriers, as well as target different factors for men and women and for differing socio-economic and demographic groups.