Differences in objectively measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour between White Europeans and South Asians recruited from primary care: Cross-sectional analysis of the PROPELS trial

Gregory J. H. Biddle (Lead Author), Charlotte L. Edwardson, Alex V. Rowlands, Melanie J. Davies, Danielle H. Bodicoat, Wendy Hardeman, Helen Eborall, Stephen Sutton, Simon Griffin, Kamlesh Khunti, Thomas Yates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Self-reported data have consistently shown South Asians (SAs) to be less physically active than White Europeans (WEs) in developed countries, however objective data is lacking. Differences in sedentary time have not been elucidated in this population. This study aimed to quantify differences in objectively measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour between WEs and SAs recruited from primary care and to investigate differences in demographic and lifestyle correlates of these behaviours. Methodology: Baseline data were utilised from a randomised control trial recruiting individuals identified at high risk of type 2 diabetes from primary care. Light intensity physical activity, moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) and steps were measured using the Actigraph GT3X+, while sitting, standing and stepping time were measured using the activPAL3™. Devices were worn concurrently for seven days. Demographic (employment, sex, age, education, postcode) and behavioural (fruit and vegetable consumption, alcohol consumption, smoking status) characteristics were measured via self and interview administered questionnaires. Results: A total of 963 WE (age = 62 ± 8, female 51%) and 289 SA (age = 55 ± 11, female 43%) were included. Compared to WEs, SAs did less MVPA (24 vs 33 min/day, p = 0.001) and fewer steps (6404 vs 7405 per day, p ≤ 0.001), but sat less (516 vs 552 min/day, p ≤ 0.001) and stood more (328 vs 283 min/day, p ≤ 0.001). Ethnicity also modified the extent to which demographic and behavioural factors act as correlates of physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Differences between sex in levels of MVPA and sitting time were greater in SAs compared to WEs, with SA women undertaking the least amount of MVPA (19 min/day), the least sitting time (475 min/day) and most standing time (377 min/day) than any other group. Smoking and alcohol status also acted as stronger correlates of sitting time in SAs compared to WEs. In contrast, education level acted as a stronger correlate of physical activity in WEs compared to SAs. Conclusion: SAs were less active yet less sedentary than WEs, which demonstrates the need to tailor the behavioural targets of interventions in multi-ethnic communities. Common correlates of physical activity and sedentary behaviour also differed between ethnicities. Trial registration: ISRCTN83465245 Trial registration date: 14/06/2012.

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2019


  • Ethnic groups
  • Exercise
  • Primary health care
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Cite this