Physical activity patterns and socio-demographic correlates of physical activity among medical undergraduates in Sri Lanka: an observational study

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Abstract

Background

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide and a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Medical undergraduates are a group of young adults expected to have a sound knowledge of the benefits of physical activity (PA) and have an active lifestyle.

Objective

To quantifyPA levels among medical undergraduates of a Sri Lankan university and to determine the socio-demographic correlates of physical inactivity.

Methods

Medical undergraduates in their third, fourth and fifth years of study were recruited for this quantitative, descriptive, cross-sectional study using a self-administered questionnaire.

Results

A total of 421 students were recruited. Overall 41% were physically inactive. Females (47%) were more inactive than males (34%). The total mean weekly metabolic equivalent (MET)-minutes was 1468.2±1873. Males (1676.2±1629) had a higher mean weekly MET minutes than females (1319±20102), p=0.05. 88% owned a portable internet device such as a smartphone or tablet. Students using health-related apps on their devices had significantly higherPA (p=0.01) and lower body mass index (BMI) (p=0.04), than those who did not. Binary logistic regression revealed physical inactivity to be significantly associated with gender (p=0.01), not using a health-promoting app on their portable device (p=0.01) and the year of study (p=0.03).

Conclusion

Physical inactivity is a significant problem among medical undergraduates. The use of health applications was associated with a higher PA and lower BMI. The reasons for inactivity and the discrepancy in activity levels between males and females needs to be explored in greater detail.

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