OECD Health Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership health studies prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

English, French

Current and past trends in physical activity in four OECD countries

Empirical results from time use surveys in Canada, France, Germany and the United States

Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviours have been rising throughout the OECD in recent decades. Lack of physical activity and excessive sedentary behaviour are well-known risk factors for non-communicable diseases, such as heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis. As such, reducing physical inactivity and sedentary behaviours and increasing daily physical activity has become a crucial public health issue. Using nationally representative time use surveys, this paper presents the trends in physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviours over time, in Canada, France, Germany and the United States. A particular focus of this analysis is placed on sport activities.

Men and women spend between 80 and 105 minutes daily in physical activities, with women spending more time in domestic physical activity, and men more time in sports. Participation in sport activities has been increasing over time, but no global trend for time spent in sports is visible; additionally, women are consistently less likely than men to report engagement in sport activities. Meanwhile, participation in active travel has been decreasing, displaying no overall trend for duration either. Education-based inequalities for sports participation are higher in men than in women, while income-based inequalities for sports are higher in women than in men. Men and women with a low level of income are more likely to report active travel in all countries. Additional MET (metabolic equivalent) hours spent in sports and non-sports leisure PA, domestic PA, and active travel are all associated with an increase in total PA, while work-related PA as well as other activities are associated with a decrease in total PA. At the individual level, an increase in time spent in all previously mentioned activities is associated with a decrease in total time spent in sedentary behaviours.


JEL: I1: Health, Education, and Welfare / Health; D1: Microeconomics / Household Behavior and Family Economics; C02: Mathematical and Quantitative Methods / General / Mathematical Methods
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