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Physical inactivity among physiotherapy undergraduates: exploring the knowledge-practice gap


Ranasinghe, C and Sigera, C and Ranasinghe, P and Jayawardena, R and Ranasinghe, ACR and Hills, AP and King, N, Physical inactivity among physiotherapy undergraduates: exploring the knowledge-practice gap, BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 8, (1) Article 39. ISSN 2052-1847 (2016) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

DOI: doi:10.1186/s13102-016-0063-8


Background: Physical inactivity is a common risk factor for several non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Increasing physical activity could reduce the burden of disease due to major NCDs and increase life expectancy. Undergraduate physiotherapy students represent a group of young-adults expected to have a good knowledge of physical activity. We evaluated physical activity levels of undergraduate physiotherapy students of University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and determined their motives and barriers for participation in physical activity.

Methods: All physiotherapy undergraduates studying at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2013 were invited for the study. Phase one was a quantitative study to evaluate the physical activity levels and phase two was a qualitative study to identify motives and barriers for physical activity and sports in the same cohort. Physical activity levels (phase 1) were assessed using the interviewer administered International Physical Activity Questionnaire (long-version). The qualitative study (phase 2) was conducted in the same population using Focus Group Discussions (n = 3) and individual In-depth Interviews (n = 5).

Results: Sample size in phase 1 and phase 2 were 113 (response rate = 98%; [N-115]) and 87 (response rat = 97%; [N-90]) respectively. Mean age (±SD) of participants was 23.4 ± 1 years. The mean weekly total MET minutes (±SD) of the study population was 1791.25 ± 3097. According to the IPAQ categorical score a higher percentage of participants were ‘inactive’ (48.7%), while only 15.9% were in the ‘Highly active’ group. Lack of support and encouragement received during childhood to engage in sports activity seem to have played an important role in continuing their exercise behavior through to the adult life. Academic activities were given priority by both parents and teachers. The environment and support from teachers, family and friends were important to initiate and adhere to sports and physical activity.

Conclusions: A higher percentage of participants were ‘inactive’, in spite of belonging to a group which is presumed to be knowledgeable regarding the benefits of physical activity. A significant negative attitude towards physical activity was observed in this cohort of young-adults. This seems to stem from earlier in life, due to lack of support and motivation for physical exercise and sports, received during primary and secondary schooling. This negative attitude has become a significant ‘internal’ barrier, which has not been changed in spite of their education.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Physical activity, Physiotherapy undergraduates, Sri Lanka, Knowledge-practice gap
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Health services and systems not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the health sciences
UTAS Author:Hills, AP (Professor Andrew Hills)
ID Code:117274
Year Published:2016
Deposited By:Health Sciences
Deposited On:2017-06-06
Last Modified:2017-11-07
Downloads:168 View Download Statistics

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