Analysis of Kiwis’ physical activity

10 Feb, 2021
Analysis of Kiwis’ physical activity

A series of global report cards on physical activity shows New Zealanders increased their level of physical activity by six percent between 2015 and 2019.

The Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA), an organisation of researchers, epidemiologists and policy makers which analyses global data on physical activity and health, has released its second set of country cards profiling physical activity for 162 countries.

The New Zealand card, verified by the GoPA's local representatives led by AUT (Auckland University of Technology) Professor and Head of School of Sport and Recreation Erica Hinckson, is now available in Māori and English. It shows that on average 58% of New Zealanders are physically active (defined as two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week), a six percent increase from 2015. The average for New Zealand men is 61%, and women 55%, a gender gap which persists across both cards, and in line with the global trend of men getting more physical activity than women. New Zealand's overall 58% average compares to 48% for Australia, 58% for Canada, 68% for the United States and 62% for England.

The percentage of deaths in New Zealand due to physical inactivity was 10.6 percent, a decrease of 2.1% from the 2015 data.

"Absolutely we are moving in the right direction, we just need to keep going," says Professor Hinckson.

Professor Hinckson attributes the positive changes to locally driven community initiatives such as Healthy Families which focus on the prevention of chronic disease through reducing risk factors.

Compared with the 2015 NZ Country Card, the following have improved

  • Physical activity overall from 52% to 58%, up by 6%
  • Men's physical activity from 56% to 61%, up by 5%
  • Women's physical activity from 48% to 55%, up by7%
  • Percentage of deaths due to physical inactivity decreased by 2.1%
  • Slight increase in the Human Development Index (HDI) from 0.910 to 0.920.
    • The HDI is a measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: life expectancy for health, average years of schooling for education, and Gross National Income per capita for standard of living. A low human development HDI score is between 0.0 and 0.5, a medium HDI score is between 0.5 and 0.8, and a high human development HDI score is between 0.8 and 1.0.
    • NZ currently ranks 14th in the world of participating countries.


Compared with the 2015 NZ Country Card, the following have not improved

  • Death from non-communicable disease has gone up by 7%, although this may be due to better data. Non-communicable diseases include cancer, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, digestive diseases, skin diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, and congenital anomalies.
  • Slight increase in the GINI Index for income equality from 0.32 to 0.35
    The GINI index or co-efficient measures distribution of income across a population and ranges from 0 to 1; 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing total inequality.

Professor Hinckson says information on the 2015 cards has been used to guide the development of Te Kākano (The Seed) Network for Wellbeing through Physical Activity and Sport, a research consortium of academics from New Zealand universities, and practitioners from multiple disciplines/sectors to develop a national research programme to address activity levels in New Zealand.

"With this new card we will continue to work with the Ministry of Health, Sport NZ, Auckland Transport, the Australasian Society of Physical Activity and community organisations such Cause Collective/Toi Tangata."


The Global Observatory for Physical Activity was formed in response to the urgent call to action raised by the 2012 Lancet Physical Activity Series. Its mission is to monitor physical activity surveillance, research, and policy worldwide, with the goal of reducing the global burden of mortality and morbidity caused by physical inactivity.

In 2015, GoPA produced the first set of Country Cards physical activity profiles for 139 countries worldwide, using data up to 2013. GoPA has now launched the second set of Country Cards, based on data up to 2019 from 217 countries. The Country Cards help to make the case for physical activity at the national level, and can be used by governments, researchers, advocates, and society.

Professor Erica Hinckson with Research Fellows Dr Moushumi Chaudhury, Dr Charlotte Jelleyman and Dr Saeideh Aminian have verified the information on the New Zealand Country Card.

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