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Key motivators and barriers to physical activity

Media release


SPARC reveals key motivators and barriers to physical activity

A new SPARC (Sport and Recreation New Zealand) study has revealed the key motivators and barriers to physical activity experienced by inactive people - an estimated 1.3 million adult New Zealanders.

Key motivators include: awareness that physical activity is good for you, desire to maintain a healthy weight, and desire for approval by others. Key barriers include: lack of time and/or energy, lack of encouragement or support from others, and difficulty in sticking to a routine.

"Due to this research, SPARC now has an in depth understanding of the reasons why people are inactive and the motivators that can be built upon to encourage increased physical activity," said Nick Hill, SPARC CEO, speaking at the Parliamentary launch.

"With inactivity the direct cause of 2,600 deaths every year -four times more than road related deaths - it is imperative we continually look for new ways of approaching the problem of inactivity.

"The study has not only given us a bigger picture view of the reasons behind inactivity, it has also enabled us to look deeper into this group and to identify six distinct types of inactive people, each with their own distinct needs, motivations, attitudes and behaviours.

"This greatly strengthens SPARC's ability to develop effective, targeted strategies to help these New Zealanders overcome their "obstacles to action' and thereby increase their physical activity, health and self-esteem," he said.

Entitled Obstacles to Action: A Study of New Zealanders' Physical Activity and Nutrition, the study was released today by Sport and Recreation Minister Trevor Mallard.

The study, which was undertaken by ACNielsen on behalf of SPARC, is based upon the findings of a joint SPARC/Cancer Society survey of over 8000 New Zealanders about physical activity, nutrition, community facilities, obesity and sources of health information.

Two of the identified "types' of inactive people, "Others Oriented" and "Support Seekers", were profiled at the Parliamentary launch.

SPARC will be making the survey findings available to all organisations that are seeking ways to make New Zealanders more physically active and healthier.

The following will be available on the SPARC website from 30 January:

- Obstacles to Action: Overview Report

- Obstacles to Action: Profiling Others Oriented

- Obstacles to Action: Profiling Support Seekers

- Obstacles to Action: Technical Report

Access to the findings of the SPARC / Cancer Society study is via ACNielsen with support from SPARC.



Methodology Overview

The study was based on a joint SPARC/Cancer Society survey undertaken in 2003 and was conducted by ACNielsen. The survey was based on an American Cancer Society survey which was significantly modified to suit the New Zealand social and cultural environment . It was pre tested with 100 respondents.

The final version of the 26-page self completion questionnaire was sent to a random selection of 14,000 households drawn from the electoral roll. Those of Maori descent identified in the electoral roll and addresses of those aged under 25 years were over-sampled to try to counter the typically lower response from these groups.

The mail out process involved a number of contacts with the selected households including pre-notification letters, reminder letters and token incentives. A reminder to complete the survey was also aired on the Holmes TV programme.

A total of 8163 completed questionnaires were received (a response rate of 61%). These were initially segmented as follows:

Total Sample = 8163

Inactive = 692 (9%)

(These people have no intention of changing or are physically unable to change)

Target Group = 3700 (45%)

Active = 3685 (45%)

(These people are already active and have been for a minimum of six months)

The target group (3700 people) was then initially segmented based on 30 plus variables. After several reiterations, a final clustering based on the key top 13 variables, produced six segments. The percentage of the New Zealand population aged 16 and over who fall into each segment is detailed in brackets.

- Segment One (6%): Others Oriented - detailed below

- Segment Two (10%): Higher than average health but see few benefits from being physically active. Think they are OK as they are

- Segment Three (6%): Lowest belief in benefits of physical activity, least motivated, lack commitment. Youngest age profile

- Segment Four (9%): Perceive lack of time as the main barrier to physical activity. This segment is the most stressed. Moderate belief in benefits of physical activity

- Segment Five (6%): Support Seekers - detailed below

- Segment Six (9%): Enjoy physical activity, care about keeping in shape and strongly believe in the benefits of physical activity. This segment has fewer barriers and are the most confident that they can be physically active - but they are not

Segment One - Others Orientated

This segment has many perceived barriers and excuses for not being physically active.

Specifically, the barriers are:

- Environmental eg. Cost, facilities too hard to get to, concerns about safety, no-one to do physical activities with

- Too hard to stick to a routine

- Lack of energy/too tired

- Too many household chores

- Get bored quickly

- Arthritis and health problems

- Physical Activity is uncomfortable

Motivation for this segment is extrinsic - they are highly sensitive to others. They score higher than the target group in the following areas:

- Others discourage me - 97% of this segment rate this as an influence. In the remaining segments the next highest score for this influence is 13%

- I don't get enough encouragement

- I get too much encouragement

- I do physical activity because I want others to approve of me

- My family wants me to be physically active

It is important to note that this group claims to enjoy physical activity, and are moderately confident that they can be more physically active.

Regarding nutrition:

- Fruit consumption is similar to the target group overall

- Vegetable consumption is the lowest of all segments. 13% eat none or one serving of vegetables a day

This segment has the highest rating on almost all the barriers of eating fruit and vegetables. They are very easily discouraged and are put off by the availability, cost and convenience.

Demographic profile of this segment:

- One third of this segment are Asian or Pacific People

- They are less likely to be married or living with their partner compared to the target group overall

- A quarter rate their health as very good or excellent. This is lower than the target group overall

- 27% of this segment are obese

Within this segment, obesity is more established with Pacific People, with 62% of Others Oriented Pacific People being obese. Interestingly, 45% of these people rate their health as good, possibly indicating cultural acceptance of being big.

Segment Five: Support Seekers

The key distinguishing characteristic of this segment is the importance of encouragement from others.

- 99% of Support Seekers say they do not receive enough encouragement to be physically active. Across the other segments this percentage ranges from 14% - 44%

- 65% of Support Seekers who say they don't get enough encouragement are women

This segment is less physically active compared to other segments and they do not find physical activity enjoyable. They are aware their inactivity is bad for them, but only 33% of this segment say that physical activity is a priority for them.


Compared to the larger target group, this segment lacks self-efficacy in most areas.

- 12% are confident they can be physically active for 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week (compared to 24% of target group)

- 26% are confident they could eat a low fat diet

- 23% are confident they could maintain a healthy weight or begin to lose excess weight

- 39% are confident they could eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day

In terms of perceived barriers and excuses for this group, these include:

- Lack of time (mainly due to work)

- Lack of energy/too tired

- Lack of commitment, specifically they find it difficult to stick to a routine

- Cost (of clothes, equipment etc)


This segment is most likely to have health problems which may interfere with their ability to be, or belief they can be, physically active. Specifically

- 22% suffer from depression/mood disorder

- 11% suffer from an anxiety disorder

Poor sleeping patterns, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also higher for this segment.

These health problems may be linked to obesity - 27% of Support Seekers are obese.


- This segment has a large proportion of women (65%)

- Support Seekers are more likely to be married or living with their partner

- There is a higher proportion of Maori in this segment - 16% compared to 12% of target group

The following reports will be available on from 30 January 2004:

- Obstacles to Action: Profiling Others Oriented

- Obstacles to Action: Profiling Support Seekers

- Obstacles to Action: Overview Report

- Obstacles to Action: Technical Report


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