Thursday, October 18, 2007

Be Active 07: Physical activity research conference in Adelaide Australia.

The last few days I attended the Be Active 07 conference in Adelaide ( This conference was in fact a combination of several conferences, sports medicine, injury prevention, and physical activity, with the possibility of attending sessions in each and a few joint sessions. I was invited to speak in the physical activity part on environmental determinants of physical activity. The short version of my talk is that physical activity is certainly not only influenced by physical environmental factors. Personal factors like motivation and abilities and social environmental factors like social support and positive examples of others, are of great importance, and are supported by stronger scientific evidence. In short, physical activity is a result of motivation, ability, opportunity and support. People will be most likely to be active if the are motivated to do so, if the have the right abilities, if their environment offers good opportunities and if the get support from relevant others. A short interview in the Herald Sun exaggerated my point a bit…(see
Steve Blair gave a very entertaining keynote on the ‘fit and fat’ message (see for example, He presented convincing evidence that physical activity has strong health benefits, also independent of weight loss, and that people who are fat but fit are much better of health-wise that lean but unfit people. He also presented nice research showing that physical activity is a more effective and less expensive treatment of conditions such as metabolic syndrome and hypertension that most other usual treatments. So why is it that physical activity support is not part of treatment programs and often not covered by health insurance?
Part of the program focussed on sedentary behaviours. Earlier studies have indicated that sedentary behaviour and physical activity are rather independent, i.e. people who are active may also engage in much sedentary behaviours. Earlier studies have also indicated that sedentary behaviour is an independent and maybe even more important determinants of conditions such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. Now some evidence was presented that just getting people out of their seats for a little while during their sedentary days may have a significant impact on prevention of such chronic conditions.