A total of 56 surveys from 29 countries in the Asia-Pacific region were included in this review. Sample sizes ranged from 586 in the small Pacific island nation of Tokelau to 42,500 in India. Nationally representative samples were used in 37 studies (66%). Table shows the physical activity prevalence data by country and outlines year of survey, sample size, representativeness and the domains assessed. A list of 12 countries where national or representative data was unavailable or unknown for the period 2000-2010 can be found in Additional file 2
Prevalence of physical activity in the Asia-Pacific region
Nineteen surveys reported data on median MET-minutes/day, with estimates ranging from 98 in Vietnam to 1461 in India. Six surveys contained information on mean MET-minutes, ranging from 6 in China to 161 in Bangladesh. Additionally, in Indonesia, median MET-minutes/day were reported according to domain of physical activity (work: 60 MET-minutes; transport: 26 MET-minutes; leisure: 17 MET-minutes) and three countries reported mean MET-minutes by domain. In the Marshall Islands, the travel domain contributed 45 MET-minutes compared with work (18 MET-mins) and leisure (12 MET-mins) domains. In Kiribati and Samoa, the work domain contributed most (39 and 9 MET-minutes respectively) to the total, followed by travel (25 and 3 MET-minutes respectively) and leisure (5 and 2 MET-minutes respectively) domains.
Surveys other than the IPAQ or GPAQ were reported from nine countries. Six of these countries used multiple additional survey instruments, totalling 18 studies using other methodologies. Nine of these surveys (16% of the total sample) were national health surveys, three (5%) were national sport surveys and the remaining six (11%) used unique measurement tools. Ten surveys measured the percent of sufficiently active adults, with estimates varying from 14% in Singapore to 70% in New Zealand.
Comparisons can be made among surveys that used the same measures. Nineteen of the surveys (34%) used the IPAQ, as part of the World Health Survey. Estimates of the proportion 'sufficiently active' ranged from 54% in Malaysia to 93% in the Philippines (median 90%, inter-quartile range 80-92%). Median MET-minutes of activity varied from 98 in Vietnam to 1461 in India (median 694 MET-minutes, inter-quartile range 143-1156).
Eighteen surveys (37%) used the GPAQ, as part of the WHO NCD STEPS Surveys. Fifteen of these provided estimates of the percent 'sufficiently active', ranging from 7% in Maldives to 89% in Mongolia (median 53.5% inter-quartile range 44.5-80.5). Ten surveys provided median MET-minutes, ranging from 134 in Indonesia to 918 in Bangladesh and Myanmar and five provided mean MET-minutes ranging from 69 in Kiribati to 111 mean MET-minutes in Tokelau.
Eighteen surveys provided data on both percent 'sufficiently active', and median and/or mean MET-minutes of physical activity. For the majority of these surveys, both measures were similar. For example, in the Philippines where 93% were 'sufficiently active', the median activity was 1158 MET-minutes/day. However, in Vietnam, the percent 'sufficiently active' was high at 92% but the median activity was discordant at only 98 MET-minutes.
Of the 56 surveys reported here, 11 (22%) were conducted more than once providing trend information. Of these, five countries (Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand) demonstrated increases in physical activity levels over time. Three surveys conducted in Australia, the Republic of Korea and Japan demonstrated decreases in physical activity levels over time. The remaining three from Australia, Japan and New Zealand did not show significant changes in either direction over time (data not shown).
Figure displays estimates from the 45 surveys (80%) providing data on "sufficiently active" adults in the population, ranging from 7% in the Maldives to 93% in the Philippines (median estimate 62%, inter-quartile range 40-85). In 14 countries more than one survey has been used. Six such nations reported prevalence data from both IPAQ and GPAQ and in all these cases, higher proportions of 'sufficient activity' were reported using the IPAQ measure compared with the GPAQ. The greatest variation was in Nepal; with estimates of 18% sufficiently active obtained using GPAQ, compared with an estimate of 92% from IPAQ.
Asia-Pacific countries physical activity estimated: Percent of adults 'sufficiently active'.
Surveys that used other instruments to examine leisure-time physical activity reported substantially lower prevalence estimates compared with countries using the multi-domain measures of IPAQ and/or GPAQ. Similar differences in point estimates derived from IPAQ and GPAQ are evident for median MET-minutes, with three of the four countries with data from both surveys reporting higher values using IPAQ than GPAQ. This discrepancy was most pronounced in India, with estimates varying from 1461 median MET-minutes from IPAQ to 356 median MET-minutes from GPAQ. Only Myanmar reports a higher median MET-minutes value using GPAQ than IPAQ (918 compared with 694).