Little is known about changes in lifestyle and socioeconomic characteristics among physical activity subgroups over time. This study aimed at assessing whether the lifestyle and the socioeconomic profile of people with either low total physical activity (TPA) or high TPA changed during 1972-97.
Six independent cross-sectional surveys were carried out among a middle-aged population at five-year intervals in Eastern Finland, 1972-97. The participation rates varied from 71% to 95% (n = 33,712). Physical activity during leisure time (LTPA) and occupational physical activity (OPA) were determined by a self-administered questionnaire. TPA was calculated by combining LTPA and OPA.
Men with low TPA were older, smoked more, and had a higher BMI than men with high TPA. The increase in BMI was almost fourfold in sedentary men (trend 0.4%/5 years, p = 0.023 for trend) than in highly active men (trend 0.1%/5 years, p = 0.044 for trend). Education no longer accounted for the socioeconomic difference after 1977. Sedentary women had a higher BMI and smoking prevalence than those with high TPA. The difference in age, education, and marital status disappeared between those two groups after 1977.
The lifestyle and the socioeconomic profiles of people with both low TPA and high TPA have changed during 1972-97.