Notes on the data: Health risk factors

Estimated population, aged 18 years and over, who did no or low exercise in the week prior to being interviewed, 2014-15


Policy context:  The benefits of regular physical activity include reductions in the risk of health conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer, depression and some injuries. In addition, physical activity is an important element for achieving and maintaining a healthy body mass which is of particular focus given the high rates of overweight and obesity in Australia and the role of this risk factor in chronic disease.

In 2014-15, nearly one in three (29.7%) 18-64 year olds were not sufficiently active and 14.8% were inactive during the last week, similar to 2011-12 proportions (29.4% and 16.0% respectively). Men were more likely to have participated in sufficient physical activity during the last week (57.7%) than women (53.3%) and equally as likely to have been inactive (15.2% and 14.4% respectively). Among persons aged 65 years and over, one in four (24.9%) undertook the recommended amount of exercise in the last week [1].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Exercise, National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15 — Australia. Available from

Notes:  In the absence of data from administrative data sets, estimates are provided for selected health risk factors from the 2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Estimates at the Population Health Area (PHA) level are modelled estimates produced by the ABS, as described below (estimates at the Local Government Area (LGA) and Primary Health Network (PHN) level were derived from PHA estimates).

Users of these modelled estimates should note that they do not represent data collected in administrative or other data sets. As such, they should be used with caution, and treated as indicative of the likely social dimensions present in an area with these demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

The numbers are estimates for an area, not measured events as are, for example, death statistics. As such, they should be viewed as a tool that, when used in conjunction with local area knowledge and taking into consideration the prediction reliability, can provide useful information that can assist with decision making for small geographic regions. Of particular note is that the true value of the published estimates is also likely to vary within a range of values as shown by the upper and lower limits published in the data (xls) and viewable in the bar chart in the single map atlases.

What the modelled estimates do achieve, however, is to summarise the various demographic, socioeconomic and administrative information available for an area in a way that indicates the expected level of each health indicator for an area with those characteristics. In the absence of accurate, localised information about the health indicator, such predictions can usefully contribute to policy and program development, service planning and other decision-making processes that require an indication of the geographic distribution of the health indicator.

The response rate of around 85% provides a high level of coverage across the population; however, the response rate among some groups is lower than among other groups, e.g., those living in the most disadvantaged areas have a lower response rate than those living in less disadvantaged areas. Although the sample includes the majority of people living in households in private dwellings, it excludes those living in the most remote areas of Australia; whereas these areas comprise less than 3% of the total population, Aboriginal people comprise up to one third of the population in these areas. This and other limitations of the method mean that estimates have not been published for PHAs with populations under 1,000, or with a high proportion of their population in:

  1. non-private dwellings (hospitals, gaols, nursing homes - and also excludes members of the armed forces);
  2. in Very Remote areas;
  3. in discrete Aboriginal communities; and
  4. where the relative root mean square errors (RRMSEs) on the estimates was 1 or more (estimate replaced with ≠)


  1. Estimates with RRMSEs from 0.25 and to 0.50 have been marked (~) to indicate that they should be used with caution; and those greater than 0.50 but less than 1 are marked (~~) to indicate that the estimate is considered too unreliable for general use.
  2. For the Primary Health Network (PHN) data, differences between the PHN totals and the sum of LGAs within PHNs result from the use of different concordances.

Indicator detail

The indicator is based on exercise undertaken for fitness, sport or recreation in the week prior to being interviewed. No exercise, which includes Very low levels of exercise, was previously referred to as Sedentary in Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.001) and earlier releases.

Types of exercise covered in the 2014-15 National Health Survey were walking undertaken for transport, fitness, recreation or sport, and moderate and vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise consists of activity that causes a moderate increase in heart rate or breathing, while vigorous exercise causes a large increase in a person's heart rate or breathing.

For adults aged 18-64 years, physical activity guidelines recommend 150-300 minutes of moderate or 75-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both, per week. The guidelines also recommend that adults aged 18-64 years do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days of each week [1].

For adults aged 65 years and over, guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days [1].


Numerator:  Estimated number persons aged 18 years and over who did no or low exercise


Denominator:  Population aged 18 years and over


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100 population (aged 18 years and over); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on modelled estimates from the 2014-15 National Health Survey, ABS (unpublished).


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