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Female university students’ physical activity levels and associated factors: a cross-sectional study in southwestern Saudi Arabia
Kristianstad University, School of Health and Society, Avdelningen för Hälsovetenskap. Kristianstad University, Research Environment PRO-CARE.
Åstrand Laboratory of Work Physiology, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm.
National Childhood Obesity Center, Departments of Pediatrics and of Clinical Science, Intervention, and Technology, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institute.
Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute.
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2013 (English)In: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, ISSN 1661-7827, E-ISSN 1660-4601, Vol. 10, no 8, 3502-3517 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: The high prevalence of physical inactivity in Saudi Arabia is a growing challenge to public health. This study aimed to examine the prevalence of physical activity (PA) and associated factors among female university students. Methods: This cross-sectional study involved 663 randomly selected female university students who completed the Arab Teens Life Style questionnaire. Data included measurements of anthropometric, socioeconomic and environmental factors, as well as self-reported PA. Ordinal regression was used to identify associated factors with low, moderate and high PA levels. Results: The mean age of participants was 20.4 years (SD 1.5). Mean BMI of the students in relation to PA were 23.0, 22.9, 22.1 for high, moderate and low levels of activity, respectively. The analysis revealed significantly higher PA levels among married students, those with high educated mothers, and those who lived far from parks, and lower activity levels among underweight students. Conclusions: This study raises four important determinants for female university students’ PA levels. These factors could be of great importance in the endeavor to prevent the health-threatening increase in physical inactivity patterns and thus non-communicable diseases and obesity where the focus should be on the specific situation and needs of women in Saudi Arabia.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 10, no 8, 3502-3517 p.
Keyword [en]
epidemiologic methods, Middle East, women’s health, Saudi Arabia, physical activity, female university students, cross-sectional studies, socioeconomic factors
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
URN: urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-10903DOI: 10.3390/ijerph10083502ISI: 000330526700026OAI: diva2:640229
Available from: 2013-08-13 Created: 2013-08-13 Last updated: 2015-01-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Nutrition, weight status and physical activity in Saudi Arabia: with special focus on women
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Nutrition, weight status and physical activity in Saudi Arabia: with special focus on women
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: The prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been escalating to levels that are threatening the public health of the entire KSA population, especially the female population. However, both physical activity (PA) education and research have only focused to a limited extent on women’s health status.

Objectives: The overall aim of this thesis was to increase our knowledge on the current health situation of both a hospital-based and a healthy female population in the KSA with regard to nutritional status, habits, practices, and PA.

Methods: This thesis contains four Papers (I–IV) whose data were collected in the southwestern region of the KSA. A total of 166 hospital patients (60 women and 106 men) were screened regarding their nutritional status, 15 registered nurses were interviewed, and 663 female university students self-reported their PA levels and nutritional habits and had their anthropometrics measured. The data were analyzed using SPSS (Papers I, III, and IV) and latent content analysis (Paper II).

Findings: Significantly more women (29%) than men (10%) were found to be obese in Paper I. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of patients at risk for undernutrition between women and men (40% vs. 38%), but significantly more women than men received care targeting undernutrition in the hospital-based study population. Individual interviews with nurses in Paper II showed that nurses were “bridging malnutrition and physical inactivity” by identifying “potentials to provide good nutrition and PA” to the patients and their relatives and by stating their “ability to provide patients with good nutrition and PA”. The majority (57.0%) of the female participants in Papers III and IV were of normal weight, 19.2% were underweight, and 23.8% were overweight/obese. The mean body mass index (BMI) of the students in relation to high, moderate, and low levels of PA was 23.0, 22.9, and 22.1, respectively. Significant associations were found between PA and marital status, the mother’s education level, the participant’s BMI, and residential proximity to parks and recreational facilities. Several variables were found to correlate with dietary habits, underweight, and overweight/ obesity. Of special interest were the negative and positive associations between the number of siblings and the participants’ BMI and dietary habits.

Interpretations: The results of these studies emphasize the coexistence of underweight and overweight/obesity among both healthy persons and hospital patients. The total prevalence of overweight/obesity among both hospital patients and female university students is higher in the KSA compared to other international settings. Furthermore, the fact that patients at risk of undernutrition or with manifest undernutrition do not get adequate nutritional care is understandable given our results showing that the interviewed nurses were not given the authority to provide the nutritional care that they thought necessary.

Conclusions: This thesis suggests that the promotion of PA and nutritional education for women should be a major target for policy makers as well as public health practitioners and researchers. The goal for such activities would be to prevent the inevitable health complications related to poor dietary habits and lack of PA.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Karolinska institutet, 2014. 61 p.
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-13456 (URN)978-91-7549-329-9 (ISBN)
Available from: 2015-01-29 Created: 2015-01-29 Last updated: 2015-01-29Bibliographically approved

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