Featured Report

Territory-wide Physical Fitness Survey for the Community

As announced last year, the findings of the “2021 Territory-wide Physical Fitness Survey for the Community” (the survey) concluded that over half of the adults and adolescents in Hong Kong lacked sufficient physical activities, falling short of the health standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). As far as the children’s group is concerned, over 60% of the respondents failed to meet the standards. It is, however, reassuring to note the improvements in a range of physical fitness parameters such as cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength and muscular endurance, all better than the levels in 2012. That said, to further enhance physical fitness of the community, it is imperative for the government to organise sports activities for all and educate the public about the benefits of regular exercise, thereby helping them maintain physical and mental health.

The survey was conducted under the supervision of the Community Sports Committee under the Sports Commission, with the Department of Sports Science and Physical Education at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as the survey consultant and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) as the coordinator. The respondents were divided into three groups, namely children aged 7 to 11, adolescents aged 12 to 16, and adults aged 17 to 79.

One-third of children being overweight, while over 60% lacking physical activities

The survey was designed with reference to the Body Mass Index (BMI) standards set by WHO for different age and gender groups to assess the health conditions of various age groups. The findings showed that a large number of children were living with obesity, with 33% being overweight and obese, which exceeded that of adolescents (27.7%). Furthermore, there was a significant discrepancy between the perceived sufficiency of physical activity level and the actual required physical activity level among children.

The survey indicated that two-third of students did not engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more per day, falling short of the standards recommended by the WHO. Despite this, 84.4% of children perceived that they had sufficient physical activity levels.

Factors such as bad weather and heavy academic workload undermining the incentives to do exercise, warranting more active promotion on parent-child activities

The five most popular sports among boys were, in descending order of preference, ball games, swimming, cycling, running, and track and field, while girls preferred swimming, rope skipping, cycling, dancing, and ball games. The three main reasons behind children’s reluctance to do exercise were bad weather, heavy academic workload, as well as physical and mental fatigue.

The government should address the problems by providing parents and children with more information on home-based exercise, advocating quality schoolwork, and promoting healthy sleep habits by encouraging children to develop an orderly daily routine. If parents can set good examples by doing more physical activities, children will then become more willing to do exercise. As such, the government should organise more family-based exercise events after school, over the weekend and during holiday times, and take efforts to launch the “Physical Fitness Reward Programme”, with a view to promoting parent-child sports activities in society.

Worrying central obesity and hypertension problem among the elderly, worse for women than men

The findings of the survey also revealed that among individuals aged over 17, more than 25% of men and over 30% of women suffered central obesity, and the number of women aged 70 to 79 with central obesity even exceeded 50% (57%). Besides, hypertension was more common among people aged 70 to 79, accounting for over 40% of both men and women (43.1% and 43.3% respectively). Given more elderly people suffer central obesity and hypertension, the government should assist relevant organisations in holding popular exercise workshops for the elderly, such as Tai Chi and Baduanjin, and take efforts to promote programmes like the “QualiWalk” programme, body and mind relaxation exercises and healthy running courses, in a bid to encourage the elderly to do more exercise and stay healthy.

Five-yearly survey recommended for closer public health observation

To conclude, despite the fact that the past decade since the last survey has witnessed a drop in some physical fitness parameters, there have been improvements in the overall situation. It is believed that it had something to do with the sharp rise of sports culture in Hong Kong on the whole and the notable successes achieved by Hong Kong athletes in international competitions over the past decade. That said, given that physical fitness parameters change from time to time, the government and stakeholders should remain vigilant and provide sports programmes for all as appropriate. In addition, the survey should be conducted every five years for closer observation of the changes in the physical fitness among the public.