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Why have physical activity levels declined among Chinese adults? Findings from the 1991-2006 China health and nutrition surveys

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  • Ng, Shu Wen
  • Norton, Edward C.
  • Popkin, Barry M.

Abstract

Between 1991 and 2006, average weekly physical activity among adults in China fell by 32%. This paper discusses why total and occupational physical activity levels have fallen, and models the association between the rapid decline and various dimensions of exogenous community urbanization. We hypothesize that a) physical activity levels are negatively associated with urbanization; b) urbanization domains that affect job functions and opportunities will contribute most to changes in physical activity levels; and c) these urbanization domains will be more strongly associated for men than for women because home activities account for a larger proportion of physical activity for women. To test these hypotheses, we used longitudinal data from individuals aged 18-55 in the 1991-2006 China Health and Nutrition Surveys. We find that physical activity declines were strongly associated with greater availability of higher educational institutions, housing infrastructure, sanitation improvements and the economic wellbeing of the community in which people function. These urbanization factors predict more than four-fifths of the decline in occupational physical activity over the 1991-2006 period for men and nearly two-thirds of the decline for women. They are also associated with 57% of the decline in total physical activity for men and 40% of the decline for women. Intervention strategies to promote physical activity in the workplace, at home, for transit and via exercise should be considered a major health priority in China.

Suggested Citation

  • Ng, Shu Wen & Norton, Edward C. & Popkin, Barry M., 2009. "Why have physical activity levels declined among Chinese adults? Findings from the 1991-2006 China health and nutrition surveys," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(7), pages 1305-1314, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:68:y:2009:i:7:p:1305-1314
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Monda, Keri L. & Gordon-Larsen, Penny & Stevens, June & Popkin, Barry M., 2007. "China's transition: The effect of rapid urbanization on adult occupational physical activity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(4), pages 858-870, February.
    7. Zachary Zimmer & Toshiko Kaneda & Laura Spess, 2007. "An Examination of Urban Versus Rural Mortality in China Using Community and Individual Data," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 62(5), pages 349-357.
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    Cited by:

    1. Van de Poel, Ellen & O'Donnell, Owen & Van Doorslaer, Eddy, 2009. "Urbanization and the spread of diseases of affluence in China," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 200-216, July.
    2. Kapinos, Kandice A. & Yakusheva, Olga & Eisenberg, Daniel, 2014. "Obesogenic environmental influences on young adults: Evidence from college dormitory assignments," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 98-109.
    3. Mutsa Mutowo & Usha Gowda & John Mangwiro & Paula Lorgelly & Alice Owen & Andre Renzaho, 2015. "Prevalence of diabetes in Zimbabwe: a systematic review with meta-analysis," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 60(1), pages 1-11, January.
    4. Tafreschi, Darjusch, 2015. "The income body weight gradients in the developing economy of China," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 16(C), pages 115-134.
    5. repec:eee:chieco:v:44:y:2017:i:c:p:253-270 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:34:y:2019:i:c:p:5-15 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Jing You & Sangui Wang & Laurence Roope, 2014. "Multi-dimensional Intertemporal Poverty in Rural China," CSAE Working Paper Series 2014-36, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    8. Shu Ng & Edward Norton & David Guilkey & Barry Popkin, 2012. "Estimation of a dynamic model of weight," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 42(2), pages 413-443, April.
    9. Chih-Chien Huang & Scott Yabiku & Jennie Kronenfeld, 2015. "The Effects of Household Technology on Body Mass Index among Chinese Adults," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(6), pages 877-899, December.
    10. repec:eee:socmed:v:234:y:2019:i:c:2 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Zimmer, Zachary & Wen, Ming & Kaneda, Toshiko, 2010. "A multi-level analysis of urban/rural and socioeconomic differences in functional health status transition among older Chinese," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 559-567, August.
    12. repec:spr:ijphth:v:62:y:2017:i:8:d:10.1007_s00038-017-0970-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:eee:socmed:v:196:y:2018:i:c:p:227-232 is not listed on IDEAS

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