HealthStats NSW

Physical activity in adults

Males, 2015
48.7Males, 2014
47.7Males, 2013
43.4Males, 2012
47.8Males, 2011
45.9Males, 2010
46.8Males, 2009
48.3Males, 2008
47Males, 2007
48.4Males, 2006
46.1Males, 2005
46.7Males, 2004
47.4Males, 2003
38.7Males, 2002
39.9Females, 2015
37.3Females, 2014
36.5Females, 2013
33.6Females, 2012
33.9Females, 2011
33.4Females, 2010
33.3Females, 2009
34.2Females, 2008
34.4Females, 2007
34.1Females, 2006
34.8Females, 2005
32.7Females, 2004
34.7Females, 2003
27.8Females, 2002
28.8Persons, 2015
42.9Persons, 2014
42Persons, 2013
38.4Persons, 2012
40.7Persons, 2011
39.5Persons, 2010
39.8Persons, 2009
41.1Persons, 2008
40.6Persons, 2007
41.1Persons, 2006
40.3Persons, 2005
39.6Persons, 2004
41Persons, 2003
33.2Persons, 2002
  • + Source

    NSW Population Health Survey (SAPHaRI). Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health.

  • + Notes

    Adequate physical activity is defined by national guidelines that apply to different age groups. The guidelines relating to physical activity and sedentary behaviour were updated in 2014 and the new definition has been applied to the entire time series shown.

    The new guideline for adults aged 18 to 64 years recommends a combination of moderate and vigorous activities on most or all days of the week, as well as strength training on at least 2 days and minimising sedentary behaviour especially prolonged sitting.

    For adults aged 18-64 years, adequate physical activity is defined as undertaking physical activity for a total of at least 300 minutes per week over 5 separate occasions. The Methods tab describe the questions and calculation method used for this indicator. 

    Current guidelines for older Australians aged 65 years and over recommend  30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, or preferably all days. This report applies the same questions and calculation method to all those aged 16 years and over, despite some differences in the guidelines for different adult age groups.

    The indicator shows self-reported data collected through Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). Estimates were weighted to adjust for differences in the probability of selection among respondents and were benchmarked to the estimated residential population using the latest available Australian Bureau of Statistics mid-year population estimates. Adults are defined as persons aged 16 years and over in the NSW Population Health Survey.

    In order to address diminishing coverage of the population by landline telephone numbers (<85% since 2010), a mobile phone number sampling frame was introduced into the 2012 survey. LL/UL 95%CI = lower and upper limits of the 95% confidence interval for the point estimate.


    Department of Health. Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines: Adults. Australina Government, 2014.

    Department of Health. Choose health: Be active. A physical activity guide for older Australians. Australian Government, 2008.

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    • Key points: Physical activity

      Latest available information

      Latest available data for adults in NSW

      • 41.7% of adults aged 16 years and over (46.7% of men and 37.0% of women) undertook adequate levels of physical activity (at least 300 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity a week over five sessions), as estimated from the 2016 NSW Population Health Survey (self-reported using Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing or CATI).

      • 29.8% of persons aged 18 years and over (32.8% of males and 27.0% of females) in NSW were sufficiently active in the last week (more than 300 minutes of physical activity over five sessions), as estimated from the 2014-15 Australian Health Survey (interviewer-administered questionnaire).

      • Depending on the design, implementation, achieved response rates and target population, different surveys purporting to measure the same outcome can arrive at different conclusions. However, most surveys will generally produce broadly consistent estimates when comparing sub-groups, such as sex or age, within each survey. For measurements that are reliant on activities undertaken “in the last week”, continuous surveys provide a means of capturing consistent data over the year without being subject to seasonal influences.

      Latest available data for secondary school students in NSW

      • 21.0% of students aged 12-17 years (25.0% of boys and 16.7% of girls) undertook adequate levels of physical activity, as estimated from the 2014 NSW School Students Health Behaviours Survey (self-completed questionnaire).

      • In summer 63% of students and in winter 51% of students in years 6, 8 and 10 undertook adequate levels of physical activity, as estimated from the 2010 NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey.

      Latest available data for children in NSW

      • 26.0% of children aged 5-15 years (30.2% of boys and 21.4% of girls) achieved adequate levels of physical activity, as estimated from the 2015-2016 NSW Population Health Survey (parent-reported using CATI).


      Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Health Survey: First Results (4364.0); NSW Tables, 2011-12. Available at:

      Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health. NSW Adult Population Health Survey. Available at:

      Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health. NSW School Students Health Behaviours Survey. Available at:

      Hardy L. SPANS 2010 - NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey - Executive Summary, University of Sydney, 2012. Available at:

      Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health. NSW Child Population Health Survey. Available at:

    • Introduction: Physical activity

      Physical inactivity as a health risk factor

      Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles, that requires energy expenditure. Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally (WHO 2012).

      Physical activity is an important factor in maintaining good health at any age. People with adequate physical activity have lower rates of preventable morbidity and mortality than those who are physically inactive. Regular moderate intensity physical activity – such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports – has significant benefits for health. For instance, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression. Moreover adequate levels of physical activity will decrease the risk of a hip or vertebral fracture and help control weight (WHO 2012).

      There is strong evidence for the beneficial effects of moderate to vigorous physical activity on children and adolescents musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health, adiposity, blood lipid levels, social and mental health, and academic performance (Strong et al., 2005).

      Definition of adequate physical activity

      To maintain good health, the National physical activity guidelines for adults recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Moderate intensity activity includes brisk walking, dancing, swimming, or cycling, which can be undertaken in shorter bursts such as 3 lots of 10 minutes (AGDHA, 1999 and 2005).

      Australian recommendations for levels of physical activity in young people are at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day (AGDHA, 2004).

      Burden of disease in Australia due to physical inactivity

      Physical inactivity was responsible for 5.0% of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2011, contributing significant burden to breast cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, bowel cancer and stroke (Begg et al, 2007). Physical activity is a preventive factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes mellitus and injury.

      It is increasingly difficult for children and adolescents to participate in a physically active lifestyle in Australia. An increase in sedentary recreational activities, such as watching television and videos and playing computer games, coupled with a culture of driving children to school and other activities instead of walking or cycling have all contributed to creating an environment that encourages more sedentary pursuits (Booth, 2000).

    • Interventions: Preventive health

      The NSW Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy 2013-2018 provides a whole of government framework to promote and support healthy eating and active living in NSW and to reduce the impact of lifestyle-related chronic disease.

      The Strategy has four key strategic directions:

      • • environments to support healthy eating and active living
      • • statewide healthy eating and active living support programs
      • • healthy eating and active living advice as part of routine service delivery
      • • education and information to enable informed, healthy choices.
    • For more information: Health-related behaviours

      Useful websites

      Australian Bureau of Statistics at

      Australian Institute of Health and Welfare at

      healthdirect at

Last Updated At: Tuesday, 23 May 2017