When promoting physical activity to improve and maintain health, the socio-environmental influences that influence participation have to be taken into consideration. Physical activity is very important to public health as it has physical and mental health benefits (Kruk, 2009). It is crucial for prevention of disease but also improves a person's health and well-being and there are social benefits (Kruk, 2009). Chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease are especially a problem due the high number of physical inactivity (Department of Health, 2004). Adults who are physically active have up to 50% less chance of having chronic disease (Department of Health, 2004). Obesity is also a major problem in the United Kingdom and this could be reduced if there was more participation in physical activities. It would help with fat loss and improve fitness and health (Department of Health, 2004).
The recommended amount of physical activity is a minimum of thirty minutes a day, five days a week. However, only 35% of males and 24% of females manage to complete this recommendation (Miles, 2007). This may be due to a change in lifestyle because compared to thirty years ago there are less manual jobs and a lot of everyday activities have been improved through use of machines therefore people can be less active (e.g. housework, shopping etc) (Department of Health, 2004). Physical activity is when a person expends energy above normal resting level and there are two types of activities; Usual and intentional (Kruk, 2009). Intentional activity refers to activities that are not normal daily activities, such as dressing or walking, but ones that are during leisure time (Kruk, 2009). This essay will look at some of the different factors that influence people to take part in physical activity and how these factors vary across different populations.
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One factor to consider when looking at influences on physical activity is upbringing and family life. The interaction with family members and social groups when children are young plays a part in their interest in physical activity later on in life (Dagkas and Stithi, 2007). Social economic factor can determine how much a child can participate in physical activity as it has been shown that middle or upper class families take part as they see it as routine and can afford to take their children to classes and different activities (Dagkas and Stithi, 2007). In the study carried out by Dakgas and Stathi (2007) they found that depending on a child's financial support, encouragement from family members and environment, participation in physical varies. They compared two schools; school A which was in the suburbs and 78% of pupils left with five or more grades at A*-C level compared to a school in the city (school B) which had 40% of pupils leaving with five or more A*-C level grades. They interviewed 16 year olds and asked them about what activities they take part in, if their parents help them out and school support. They found that the pupils from school A took part in many more activities in school but also outside of school hours. They had opportunities to join lots of different clubs (e.g. hockey and skiing) due to the school having links with sports clubs (Dagkas and Stithi, 2007). Pupils from school B didn't have many opportunities and only participated in physical activity during school time. The school didn't have playing fields so the variety of sports was limited. When asked about financial support many pupils from school A agreed that without their parents paying for their sessions or kit they wouldn't be able to take part. Pupils from school B said they couldn't afford to attend clubs as their parents didn't have a lot of spare money (Dagkas and Stithi, 2007). The family encouragement was also very little as pupils said they didn't do activities with their family at the weekends, they would hang around the park with their friends. This compares to school A, who said they go for walks or take part in activities with their families at the weekends. They also mentioned that because of other members of the family participating in sports this encouraged them to take part; this motivation was not the same for pupils from school B (Dagkas and Stithi, 2007). The study shows that a person's upbringing can have a major effect on attitudes to physical activity and there are many factors that play a part such as living environment and occupation in adult life.
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There is an influence of living environment on a person's participation in physical activity and this is mainly due to the accessibility of facilities (Frost et. al, 2010).There is more of a positive attitude to physical activity if people can walk, in a safe and short distance to facilities (Frost et. al, 2010). People in rural areas are less likely to take part in physical activity as they do not have facilities close by compared to those who live in suburban or urban areas (Sallis et. al, 1990). There are two reasons as to why having facilities nearby encourage people to exercise. The first is that they provide visual stimuli; if a person has to walk past a leisure centre everyday then they are going to think more about taking part in physical activity. It also means that participating in physical activity becomes a social norm, making more people more likely to take part (Sallis et. al, 1990). If there are facilities close by it also decreases the obstacle of travelling and the travel time (Sallis et. al, 1990). The number of facilities in rural areas is a factor that influences participation and also why there is a greater chance of getting cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes (Frost et. al, 2010). Where a person lives may be due to their job and this can also have an impact on participation in physical activity.
Occupation influences participation in physical activity as it has been shown that your type of job can affect how much physical activity you do (Burton and Turrell, 2000). Blue collar workers (e.g. Drivers, labourers, machine operators etc.) have higher mortality rates and more risk of having cardiovascular disease compared to white collar (e.g. Clerks, sales people) and professional workers (e.g. manager). White collar and professional works have been shown to do more physical activity in their leisure time. This may be due to reasons such as blue collar workers may live further away from work so have to add travel time on to their leisure time and they may also have more work responsibilities to take care of (Burton and Turrell, 2000). They also might not have control over when and for how long they work compared to a manager who can have a say in their shifts. There has also been evidence to suggest that most in most workplaces people can spend up to around a half of their time sitting (Kirk and Rhodes, 2011). It is also a similar situation during leisure time when people watch television, using a computer or drive to places, meaning that people spend most of their day being inactive. This shows that their needs to be a change in lifestyle, particularly in workplaces. People should have time during their day to do half an hour of physical activity whether it is at work and during leisure time as physical activity plays an important role in prevention and treatment of hypokinetic diseases.
There has been research looking at how physical activity can help with the treatment of hypokinetic diseases such cardiovascular disease (CVD) and obesity. It has been shown that regular physical activity that uses large muscle groups is very important to treating CVD (Briffa et. al, 2006). Physical activity improves symptoms and functionality capacity, for example, reduces recurrent angina symptoms and also helps reduce breathlessness. Taking part in regular physical activity also help with recovering patients in daily activities as it builds up their strength (Briffa et. al, 2006). Survivors of myocardial infarction are 2.5% less likely to die if they are physical active (Briffa et. al, 2006) and this shows that doing even the minimal amount of physical activity is going to benefit a person in their life. Obesity can also be treated with the use of physical activity. To maintain body weight energy intake would have equal the amount of energy being expended and therefore to lose weight the amount of energy expenditure, by doing physical activity, needs to be greater which creating an energy deficit (Jakicic and Otto, 2005). To get the best long-term weight loss it has been found that there needs to be a high level of physical activity. This means instead of the recommended 30 minutes a day, a person would have to take part in 60mins of high intensity physical activity to achieve long-term weight loss (Jakicic and Otto, 2005). However it is not achieved just from physical activity, diet also needs to be made healthier to ensure maximum weight loss. This is why it is important to influence participation in physical activity as there could be a major decrease in obesity if people knew how important it was.
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It has been shown that there are many factors influencing participation physical activity and that what work for one person might not suit another. When looking at the factors that influence young people it is shown there needs to be a change for schools and pupils from a lower class area as they don't have the opportunities to participate that pupils from an upper class area may have. Schools could have after-school clubs where people from the local gym or football club hold classes for a smaller fee to get the children to take part in a variety of activities. Living environment also influences participation as if facilities are not available people do not take part in any kind of physical activity. People from rural areas should be encouraged to use the environment they have near-by to go for walks or cycles or hold classes in the local school or town hall. This means they don't have to travel in to an urban area and will cost less money. Many people's lifestyle now involves working a lot of hours, mostly in an office and having no leisure time to take part in physical activity and this is a big problem. There needs to be an attitude change in how people look at physical activity. It should not be seen as a chore but something that they will benefit from. If people knew how much their health would benefit from doing as little as 30 minutes of physical activity, five times week, then maybe more people would rethink sitting in front of the television when they get home from work. Once people learn the importance of physical activity then there could be a massive reduction in the amount of people diagnosed with hypokinetic diseases and a much healthier country.