4363.0 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2017-18  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2019   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All

Physical activity

Definition

The NHS collected information on exercise (for leisure or walking for transport) and workplace physical activity in order to assess whether people met the 2014 Physical Activity guidelines as defined by Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Workplace physical activity was collected for the first time in NHS 2017-18. Data can be reported with or without workplace physical activity to allow comparability with NHS 2014-15.

To gauge levels of physical activity and to measure against the 2014 Physical Activity Guidelines NHS collected:

    • Physical activity (exercise only)
    • Workplace physical activity of persons aged 15 years and over who did any work in the last week (including unpaid workers)
    • Type of physical activity undertaken in the last week (including walking as transport)
    • Number of days physical activity undertaken in the last week (including walking as transport)
    • Strength and toning sessions
    • Level of physical activity undertaken
    • Total and average minutes

'Physical activity' refers to exercise and walking for fitness or transport and 'any physical activity' includes workplace physical activities combined with other physical activity reported for exercise or transport.

Population

Physical activity information was obtained for persons aged 15 years and over. Physical activity in the workplace information was collected from persons aged 15 years and over who did any work in the last week (including unpaid workers).

Methodology


Data on physical activity was collected to provide national estimates in order to report against current 2014 Physical Activity Guidelines, Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for particular age groups.

Types of physical activity collected in 2017-18

Type of physical activityDefinition

Walking for fitness, recreation and sport
  • must have carried out for at least 10 minutes continuously
blank row
Walking to get from place to place
  • excludes activities such as walking around a shopping centre as people tend to frequently pause while shopping
  • must have carried out for at least 10 minutes continuously
blank row
Moderate intensity exercise
  • comprises activities that caused a moderate increase in the heart rate or breathing of the respondent (e.g. gentle swimming, social tennis, golf)
  • excludes any previously identified walking as well as household chores, gardening or yard work, and any activity carried out as part of a job
blank row
Vigorous intensity exercise
  • comprises activities that caused a large increase in the respondent's heart rate or breathing (e.g. jogging, cycling, aerobics, competitive tennis)
  • excludes any previously identified walking as well as household chores, gardening or yard work, and any activity carried out as part of a job
blank row
Strength or toning exercises
  • activities designed to increase muscle strength or tone, such as lifting weights, resistance training, pull-ups, push-ups, or sit ups
  • includes any Strengthening and toning exercises activities already mentioned
blank row
Workplace physical activity
  • usual physical activity while at work on a typical work day
  • must have carried out for at least 10 minutes continuously
  • moderate activity in the workplace was defined as activity that caused a moderate increase in the heart rate or breathing of the respondent (e.g. brisk walking or carrying light lights)
  • vigorous activity in the workplace was defined as activity that caused a large increase in heart rate or breathing (e.g. carrying or lifting heavy loads, digging or construction work)


Level of exercise

The ‘Level of exercise’ items were created with the aim of producing a descriptor of relative overall exercise level as set out by the previous guidelines,. It indicated the quality of the activities undertaken in terms of maintaining heart, lung and muscle fitness. Intensity, or Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET), is a measure of the energy expenditure required to carry out the exercise, expressed as a multiple of the resting metabolic rate (RMR). This item has historically been used in NHS output. As a result, this item was produced as two versions, to allow time-series to be produced which excludes walking for transport in the calculation. Note that for these two items, NHS also includes data for 15 to 17 year olds. For more information about how this was calculated see the Exercise chapter of the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2014-15 (cat. no. 4363.0)

Whether met Physical Activity Guidelines

The 2014 Guidelines recommend that:
    • Young people (13-17 years) undertake at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity everyday, from a variety of activities including some vigorous.
    • Adults (18-64 years) should be active most days of the week, accumulate 150 to 300 minutes moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity (or an equivalent combination each week), and do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
    • Older Australians (65 years and over) should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.

For more information, see Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines.

Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Young People (13 -17 years)

The current Australia's Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Young People (13-17 years) recommend:
    • For health benefits, young people aged 13-17 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day.
    • Young peoples’ physical activity should include a variety of aerobic activities, including some vigorous intensity activity.
    • On at least three days per week, young people should engage in activities that strengthen muscle and bone.
    • To achieve additional health benefits, young people should engage in more activity – up to several hours per day.

NHS derives these guidelines as met if:
    • Number of days did physical activity for at least 60 minutes in the last week = 7 days and
    • Total minutes undertaken vigorous physical activity in last week > 0 or Number of times undertaken vigorous exercise in last week > 0
    • Number of days did strength or toning activities in the last week = 3-7 days

For 2017-18 an additional data item was created including workplace activity in the derivation, for 15-17 year olds.

Australia's Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18-64 years)

The current Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18-64 years) recommend:
    • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
    • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 to 2 hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
    • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.


NHS derives these guidelines as met if:
    • Number of days did physical activity in the last week = 5-7 days
    • Number of days did strength or toning activities in the last week = 2-7 days and
    • Total minutes undertaken physical activity in last week = at least 150 minutes

where 'Total minutes undertaken physical activity in last week' is the sum of walking for fitness + walking to and from places + moderate exercise + 2 times vigorous exercise time.

For 2017-18 an additional data item was created including workplace activity in the derivation. Results are reported separately with and without workplace physical activity.
    Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Australians (65 years and older)

    There are five physical activity recommendations for older Australians:
        1. Older people should do some form of physical activity, no matter what their age, weight, health problems or abilities.
        2. Older people should be active every day in as many ways as possible, doing a range of physical activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility.
        3. Older people should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
        4. Older people who have stopped physical activity, or who are starting a new physical activity, should start at a level that is easily manageable and gradually build up the recommended amount, type and frequency of activity.
        5. Older people who continue to enjoy a lifetime of vigorous physical activity should carry on doing so in a manner suited to their capability into later life, provided recommended safety procedures and guidelines are adhered to.

    NHS derives these guidelines as met if:
      • Number of days did physical activity in the last week = 7 days and
      • Number of days did physical activity for at least 30 minutes in the last week = 5-7 days

    For 2017-18 an additional data item was created including workplace activity in the derivation for persons aged 65 years and over.

    Data items

    The questionnaire, data items and related output categories for this topic are available in pdf / Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.

    Interpretation

    Points to be considered when interpreting data relating to physical activity:
      • The information is 'as reported' by respondents and reflects the respondent's perception of the activity undertaken, the intensity of their participation, their level of fitness, etc. As a result, data should be interpreted with particular care.
      • Although the moderate and vigorous exercise questions excluded household chores, gardening and yardwork, it is possible that some of these activities were included in responses.
      • The application of intensity definitions reflected the respondent's perception of moderate or vigorous exercise or walking, and the purpose of that activity. Responses may have varied according to the type of activity performed, the intensity with which it was performed, the level of fitness of the participant, and their general health and other characteristics (e.g. age). For example, some respondents may consider jogging to be moderate exercise while others may consider it vigorous.
      • In this survey, walking for fitness, recreation or sport and walking for transport are conceptually separate activities, and occasions should be recorded as of either type, not both. Respondents may, however, have reported the same occasions of walking in both sections, as, for example, they may have chosen to walk to work for the exercise rather than take the bus, but recorded this activity time as both walking for exercise and walking for transport.
      • Strength and toning questions were asked about activity that was deliberately intended to increase muscle strength and tone. Time spent carrying out strength and toning activities was not collected separately to minutes of physical activity reported and therefore may not be included in calculations of total physical activity time, or subsequently whether guidelines are met.
      • Strength and toning information may also form part of responses to the moderate/vigorous exercise. As such, due to the duplication of responses, the data cannot be combined with the other exercise data to contribute further to exercise measurements unless this duplication is considered appropriate.
      • There were varying levels of child participation in answering the questions, depending on age, parental permission and presence of the child. The accuracy of reports for activities occurring when the parent was not present (for example, activities during the school day) may therefore vary.
      • Physical Activity Guidelines can be assessed using Physical activity (exercise only) or All Physical activity (including workplace activity).

    Comparability with 2014-15

    Physical activity (exercise only) and 2014 Physical Activity Guideline information is comparable with 2014-15 NHS. The 2017-18 NHS introduced new questions about Workplace Physical Activity,

    More information regarding comparisons between 2014-15 NHS and previous cycles is available in the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2014-15 (cat. no. 4363.0).