Walking and housework keep Finns physically active throughout the year – regular exercise is also common, particularly among young adults

Press release from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare

Many young adults engage in physical exercise in their free time. Especially gym workouts and strength training are popular among them. The oldest age group, people aged over 80, on the other hand, do very little physical activity. These results are revealed by the extensive FinHealth 2017 population-based study. The current report on the study discusses the results concerning physical activity and sedentary time among people aged 18 and over.

Of men between 18 and 29 years of age, 59% engage in physical exercise in their free time, and 44% of women. When all age groups are considered, 34% of men and 26% of women engage in physical exercise. Walking, gym workouts and strength training are the most popular forms of physical exercise throughout the year.

People aged over 80 engage in physical activity the least. Only 13% of the men and 9% of the women in this age group meet the recommendations for health-enhancing physical activity as regards endurance and muscle strengthening exercise (at least 2.5 hours of brisk endurance exercise and at least two sessions of muscle strengthening exercise per week). Walking, cleaning and small repair tasks at home, and gardening are popular forms of exercise.

Gender and seasons affect the level of engaging in physical activity less than age

The differences between men and women in engaging in physical activity are smaller than the differences between different age groups. Men have a physically strenuous job more often than women and a larger proportion of men engage in physical exercise during their free time.

The seasons have little impact on how people engage in physical activity.  A clear difference between winter and summer is visible in biking: fewer adults ride a bike actively in winter. Men engage in regular walking or water sports less often in winter than in summer. Women in turn engage in running, water sports, walking and gardening more in summer than in winter.

“It is wonderful to see that young adults have a physically active lifestyle,” says Senior Researcher Heini Wennman from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

“A very negative picture is often given of the physical activity of adults, although many positive observations can also be made. Of course, we have to remember that these results have been gathered using a questionnaire and they are based on people’s own assessments, which may be overestimated. On the other hand, various questions were asked about physical activity and the result was similar regardless of the indicator.”

This statistical report on physical activity among the Finnish adult population contains results for the whole country and results by region. The statistics contains information on physical activity in different contexts, the prevalence of different forms of physical activity in summer and in winter, and the amount of physical activity compared with the Current Care Guidelines for health-enhancing physical activity.

In addition, data on the sedentary time of the adult population, accidents related to physical activity and the advice given to take up physical activity has been compiled in the statistics.

THL’s FinHealth health examination survey was implemented in 2017 to study the health and wellbeing of the adult population and factors related to them. A nationally representative sample of the adult population living in mainland Finland was retrieved for the study. The data on physical activity and sedentary time was gathered using questionnaires.

Further information

FinHealth study

Heini Wennman
Senior Researcher
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
tel. +358 29 524 8218

Katja Borodulin
Line Manager
Age Institute, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
tel. +358 50 591 2413

Date of publication: 19 Dec 2019

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