2.18 Physical activity

This measure reports on the proportion of Indigenous Australian adults and children classified as having sedentary, low, moderate or high levels of physical activity.

Why is it important?

This measure reports on the levels of physical activity among Indigenous Australians (low, moderate or high). Physical activity can be defined as a bodily movement produced by the muscles resulting in energy expenditure, and can include organised or incidental activity (AIHW 2010a). Physical inactivity is an important modifiable risk factor associated with several potentially preventable chronic diseases that are prevalent among Indigenous Australians. These diseases include cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes (AIHW 2012; Gray et al. 2013; Wilmot et al. 2012). Physical inactivity is also related to being overweight and obese, another important risk factor for multiple preventable diseases (AHMAC 2017).

Results for adults are presented by whether a person (aged 18–64) had met the recommended guidelines for sufficient physical activity to gain a health benefit (150–300 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 75–150 minutes of vigorous activity per week) (ABS 2016). For children, results are presented in terms of time taken for physical activity and the number of days children were active.

Related measures

Data sources

  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


  • ABS 2016. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 4714.0. Canberra: ABS.
  • AHMAC 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 report. Canberra: AHMAC.
  • AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2010a. Australia’s health 2010.
  • Australia’s health series no. 12. Cat. no. AUS 122. Canberra: AIHW.
  • AIHW 2012. Risk factors contributing to chronic disease. Cat. no. PHE 157. Canberra: AIHW.
  • Gray C, MacNiven R & Thomson N 2013. Review of physical activity among Indigenous people. Australian Indigenous Health Bulletin 13(3):1–9.
  • Wilmot EG, Edwardson CL, Achana FA, Davies MJ, Gorely T, Gray LJ et al. 2012. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta‑analysis. Diabetologia 55:2895–905.