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Patterns and correlates of objectively measured free-living physical activity in adults in rural and urban Cameroon
  1. Felix Assah1,2,
  2. Jean Claude Mbanya1,
  3. Ulf Ekelund2,
  4. Nicholas Wareham2,
  5. Soren Brage2
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaoundé I, Yaoundé, Cameroon
  2. 2MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Felix Assah, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaoundé I, Yaoundé BP 8046, Cameroon; kembeassah{at}


Background Urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa is changing lifestyles and raising non-communicable disease burden. Understanding the underlying pattern of physical activity and its correlates may inform preventive interventions. We examined correlates of objectively-measured physical activity in rural and urban Cameroon.

Methods Participants were 544 adults resident in rural (W-156, M-89) or urban (W-189, M-110) regions. Physical activity was measured using individually-calibrated combined heart rate and movement sensing over seven continuous days. Sociodemographic data were collected by self-report. Independent associations of sociodemographic correlates with physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) or moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were analysed in multivariate regression models.

Results Rural dwellers were significantly more active than their urban counterparts (PAEE: 58.0 vs 42.9 kJ/kg/day; MVPA: 107 vs 62 min/day; MVPA of 150 min/week in >10 min bouts: 62 vs 39%) and less sedentary (923 vs 1026 min/day); p<0.001. There was no significant seasonal difference (dry vs rainy) in activity in urban dwellers whereas in rural dwellers activity was higher during dry seasons compared to rainy seasons (p<0.001). Age, obesity and education showed significant inverse associations with activity. Urban dwellers who considered themselves adequately active were only as active as rural dwellers who thought they were not adequately active.

Conclusions This is the first study providing data on sociodemographic patterning of objectively-measured physical activity in rural and urban sub-Saharan Africa. Age, urban residence, obesity and higher educational level are important correlates of lower levels of physical activity. These suggest targets for public health interventions to improve physical activity in Cameroon.

  • Epidemiology of chronic non communicable diseases

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