Physical Activity in a National Sample of Veterans

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Purpose:To describe and compare the prevalence of physical activity (PA) in relation to veteran status and use of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.Methods:Data were obtained from the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys of US adults. Veteran status, VA health care use, and PA were determined in 245,564 adults. Individuals were classified as inactive, insufficiently active, or meeting recommendations for moderate or strenuous PA. To adjust for confounding, we used model-based direct adjustment and chi-square tests corrected for the survey design.Results:After adjusting for age and gender, the prevalence of inactivity was significantly lower (16.2% vs 20.5%), and meeting PA recommendations was significantly greater (46.0% vs 42.0%) in veterans than in nonveterans (P < 0.0001). Compared with veterans who did not obtain their health care from the VA, VA users were more likely to be inactive (20.8% vs 14.7%) and less likely to be insufficiently active (34.1% vs 38.2%) or meet recommendations (45.1% vs 47.1%; P < 0.0001). Differences in PA levels between veterans and nonveterans and between VA users and nonusers did not change substantially after additional adjustment for education, race/ethnicity, and smoking.Conclusion:Despite the high level of PA required of active duty military personnel, only a minority of veterans met PA recommendations, and the prevalence of inactivity was particularly high in VA users. These findings suggest a large potential to increase PA and improve health in VA users.

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