Hong Kong Med J 2007;13(Suppl 4):S7-12
Patterns of physical exercise and contributing factors among Hong Kong older adults
YH Cheng, KL Chou, DJ MacFarlane, I Chi
Sau Po Centre on Ageing, The University of Hong Kong
1. Studies suggest that regular physical activity and exercise offer a significant opportunity to enhance years of active independent life for older individuals. However, the majority of local respondents have a relatively sedentary lifestyle and were not getting adequate physical activity and exercise, though many recognised the health benefits of being active.
2. Compared with their relatively active American counterparts, in terms of strength, flexibility and agility, the respondents of this study fared unfavourably, with mean values in the 20-30 percentile score or lower.
3. More than 80% of elderly adults regularly participated in sports activities, the majority of whom engaged in only a low-to-moderate level of physical exercise mainly due to limited choices and time allocation for such activity. Nearly 17% of the respondents engaged in walking as a leisure activity; a substantial proportion included completion of their household activities (shopping, visiting friends) in what they termed ‘walking’. As walking confers many health benefits, its promotion in the immediate environments of the elderly is practical and undoubtedly health enhancing.
4. Findings suggested that cognitive-perceptual factors, ie perceived ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of doing exercise, selfefficacy of exercise, stages of change and perceived barriers to exercise were all influential variables contributing to engagement in sports activity. Longitudinal studies are needed to understand the causal and temporal relations between these variables.
5. Health promotion programmes to educate older adults about the benefits of engaging in physical activity with respect to their self-efficacy are crucial. Education can enhance individual’s knowledge and/or awareness concerning the health benefits of physical activity and exercise. Those who are deprived and less educated should receive more attention from policymakers and service providers.