Stages of change towards physical activity in a nationally representative sample in the European Union
Kearney, J.M.; de Graaf, C.; Damkjaer, S.; Engstrom, L.M.
Public Health Nutrition 2(1a): 115-124
ISSN/ISBN: 1368-9800 PMID: 10933631 Accession: 047428326
To examine the distribution of the stages of change towards physical activity across Europe and the influence of sociodemographic variables on this distribution. A cross-sectional study in which quota-controlled, nationally representative samples of approximately 1000 adults from each country completed a face-to-face interview-assisted questionnaire. The survey was conducted in the 15 member states of the European Union between March and April 1997. The questionnaire was completed by 15,239 subjects (aged 15 years upwards). Data were weighted by population size for each country and by sex, age and regional distribution within each member state. Twenty-nine per cent of subjects were in the precontemplation stage, while a similar proportion (30%) were in the maintenance stage. Ten per cent had been physically active but had relapsed recently. Considerable intercountry variation existed with Scandinavian countries tending to be lower in the precontemplation stage and southern countries tending to be higher (particularly Greece and Portugal). Men and younger subjects with a higher education level were more likely to be in the maintenance stage. Overweight and obese subjects were more likely to be in the precontemplation stage than normal-weight subjects. In terms of barriers to participating in physical activity 'not being the sporty type' was more important for those in precontemplation stages, while 'work/study commitments' was more important for those people in the maintenance stage. The model of the stages of behavioural change towards physical activity was able to distinguish people according to their level and attitude to physical activity. The considerable intercountry and sociodemographic variation in the distribution of stages of change suggest that targeted programmes aimed at specific subgroups in the population identified using the model may be more effective in promoting physical activity.