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Environmental and psychosocial correlates of physical activity in Portuguese and Belgian adults

  • Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij (a1), Pedro J Teixeira (a2), Greet Cardon (a1) and Benedicte Deforche (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2007

To investigate differences in reported physical activity levels and in perceived environmental and psychosocial correlates of activity between Portuguese and Belgian adults; and to analyse the relative contribution of environmental and psychosocial variables in explaining physical activity within different contexts in Portugal and Belgium.


Cross-sectional study.


One city in Portugal (Oeiras) and one in Belgium (Ghent).


In total 526 participants, 247 from Portugal and 279 from Belgium, completed the long International Physical Activity Questionnaire and a validated questionnaire on environmental and psychosocial correlates.


For the sum of all activities of at least moderate intensity, a significantly higher mean level of activity was found in Belgian adults (P < 0.001). However, comparable percentages of the Belgian (38%) and Portuguese (42%) samples did not meet the recommendation of 30 min per day. The variance explained by environmental factors was lower (1% to 8%) than by psychosocial factors (maximum 42%). Regression analyses showed activity-specific relations with environmental variables which were analogous in both countries. Walking/cycling for transportation and walking for recreation were related to social support from family and/or friends and to walkability and walking facilities in the neighbourhood. Recreational physical activity was mainly determined by social support, self-efficacy, and perceived benefits and barriers.


Activity campaigns addressing psychosocial determinants are needed to encourage leisure-time activity, while a combination of neighbourhood design changes and encouragement of social support in walking is warranted to increase walking in different contexts.

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