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Increased physical activity is a cornerstone of type 2 diabetes prevention. The perception of a need to change is considered essential in behaviour change processes. However, the existing literature on individuals’ perceived need to change health behaviour is limited. In order to improve understanding of diabetes prevention through increased physical activity levels (PAL), we assessed factors associated with perceiving a need to increase PAL among adults at high risk of diabetes.
Opportunistic screening was used within a primary-care based lifestyle intervention covering 10 149 men and women at high risk of type 2 diabetes. Data were obtained at baseline visits. The explored determinants were demographic, anthropometric/clinical, behavioural and psychosocial characteristics, along with four categories of PAL awareness. Logistic regression was used in the analysis.
74% of men (n=2 577) and 76% of women (n=4 551) perceived a need to increase their PAL. The participants most likely to perceive this need were inactive, had a larger waist circumference, rated their PAL as insufficient, and were at the contemplation stage of change. Smoking, elevated blood pressure, dyslipidaemia, and a family history of diabetes were not associated with this perception. The likelihood was also greater among women with less perceived fitness and less education. Demographic factors other than education did not determine participants’ perceived need to increase PAL. PAL overestimators were less likely to perceive the need to increase their PAL than realistic inactive participants.
Subjective rather than objective health factors appear to determine the perception of a need to increase PAL among adults at high risk of diabetes. Client perceptions need to be evaluated in health counselling in order to facilitate a change in PAL. Practical descriptions of the associations between metabolic risk factors, PAL, and diabetes are needed in order to make the risk factors concrete for at-risk individuals.