The majority of the general public, from children to the elderly, do not carry out sufficient physical activities to maintain good health, according to the findings of the "Healthy Exercise For All Campaign - Physical Fitness Test for the Community" announced today (November 5).
The study also revealed that after reaching adulthood both men and women generally experienced deterioration in different fitness parameters, such as waist-to-hip ratio, hand grip strength and reaction time. There was also an increase in health risks (including obesity, high blood pressure, and low cardiovascular fitness) as age increased. Moreover, men generally performed better than women in various fitness tests, and the fitness of women diminished considerably faster than men in adulthood.
The study was steered by the Advisory Committee for the Physical Fitness Test for the Community set up by the Community Sports Committee under the Sports Commission, and co-ordinated by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) with the Chinese University of Hong Kong as consultant. Target participants were categorised into five age groups, namely infants aged 3 to 6, children aged 7 to 12, adolescents aged 13 to 19, adults aged 20 to 59 and the elderly aged 60 to 69.
Based on the recommended classification of Body Mass Index (BMI) for Asian adults by the World Health Organization, the study found that more than 26 per cent of men and women over the age of 20 faced the problem of central obesity (i.e. men and women with waist circumferences over 90cm and 80cm respectively).
Comparing men and women in different age groups, the study revealed that the percentage of women with obesity increased with age - only 27 per cent of middle-aged women (aged 40 to 59) were obese, while the obesity rates of the elderly women (aged 60 to 69) reached 41 per cent. In contrast, the proportion of obese men was highest among the middle-aged group (40 per cent), as compared to that of young male adults (35 per cent) and elderly males (34 per cent). For adolescents, boys and girls face different problems - while around 18 per cent of boys were overweight or obese, more than 20 per cent of girls were underweight. The problems of excess weight or obesity were also found amongst the young - more than 13 per cent of infants and 26 per cent of children were overweight or obese.
Less than 40 per cent of the adult and elderly respondents were considered "active" (according to "Baseline Indicator"). They mostly cited "lack of spare time", "tired" and "lazy" as the three main barriers to participation in physical activities. Popular physical activities among younger adults were ball games and running/jogging, but walking took first place as age advanced.
Only around 50 per cent of children and 40 per cent of adolescents were considered "active" (according to "Baseline Indicator"). Children cited "inclement weather", "too much homework", and "tired" as major reasons that demotivated them from exercising. Adolescents commonly attributed their inactiveness to "not interested", "lazy" and "lack of spare time".
Playing in the playground was found to be most popular among infants. However, less than 20 per cent of them spent an hour or more daily on average on outdoor activities. Exercise habits of parents also played a role in shaping their children's activeness. Children of families frequently engaged in physical activities also spent more time outdoor and were more active. For infants at the age of 5 to 6 who spent more than two hours daily on sedentary activities, tests showed that they were found to have higher resting heart rate, weaker strength in legs, and slower speed and reactions. The children registered a significant drop in physical activity level and a major hike in BMI when the time spent on screen activities increased.
The Committee recommended that Hong Kong people should strive to meet at least the "Baseline Indicator", which requires participation in moderate-or-above intensity physical activity at least three days per week with the accumulation of 30 minutes or above per day. After enriching their cognitive and physical fitness level, they are advised to gradually increase their physical activity level and build up the habit of exercising daily.
The overall findings of the study revealed that a person's physical activity pattern and lifestyle have a certain degree of correlation with their physical fitness level. Apart from a balanced diet, they should adopt an active way of living and make sports and physical activities an essential part of their daily life. The LCSD will continue to work with the Education Bureau (EDB), Department of Health (DH) and other stakeholders to educate the public and raise their awareness on various issues affecting their fitness and health condition. More comprehensive services will be provided to the community in a holistic manner to encourage people to lead a healthy and active life.
To tackle the common problem of inadequate physical activities for school children, educators are recommended to make reference to the guidelines issued by the EDB and DH. The physical education curriculum should cover a great variety of physical activities to provide students with different learning experiences. Moreover, parents should act as a role model to encourage their children to participate in physical activities and fully utilise resources in the community to enrich the opportunities of non-school based physical activities for children.
In view of the finding that the general fitness level of women declined faster than men across adulthood, the LCSD will organise more recreation and sports programmes for women, such as dancing and fitness activities. The department will also enhance the courses by adding more interesting elements to encourage women to cultivate the habit of regular exercising.
In addition, fitness walking is noted as a suitable sport for busy working adults because it requires minimal gear and has little time constraint. The LCSD will continue to organise briefing sessions to help the public master fitness walking skills.
Meanwhile, the LCSD will collaborate with the relevant sports organisations to design a stretching and muscles training programme which targets the working and inactive middle-aged group. People are encouraged to do stretching anytime and anywhere, which would also help them alleviate stress from work and daily lives.
In order to promote regular exercising in families, the EDB will showcase successful experiences of parent-school co-operation to schools. The LCSD will organise more family activities, such as parent-child badminton, hiking and sports fun days. Apart from the "School Sports Programme", the department will also collaborate with the EDB and DH to promote the concept of physical activities to pre-primary institutions. Workshops will be organised for teaching staff to enhance their understanding of the importance of physical activities for young children and improve their teaching techniques.
To achieve weight management effectively, people should pursue a balanced diet as well as regular participation in physical activities. In this connection, the DH has introduced various health promotion programmes such as the "StartSmart@school.hk Campaign" and "Health@work.hk Project" to target different population groups. The DH also engages community groups in promotion of healthy lifestyles.
Based on the China national fitness survey carried out by the General Administration of Sport, China, the "Healthy Exercise For All Campaign – Physical Fitness Test for the Community" was conducted by random sampling from April 2011 to January 2012. The study consisted of standardised physical fitness tests and a questionnaire to collect participants’ demographic information, their physical activity patterns, lifestyle and knowledge about other health-related issues. Over 8 000 valid samples were obtained in the survey. Members of the public may visit the LCSD website - www.lcsd.gov.hk - for detailed content and findings of the survey.
The objectives of the study were to enable participants to gain a general understanding of their own physical fitness condition; continue building up a database on the physical fitness of Hong Kong people; recognise the relationship between the physical exercise pattern and the physical fitness of people; and identify priority areas for improvement so as to enhance the overall physical fitness of the public.
Ends/Monday, November 5, 2012