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SPARC Facts 1997-2001


SPARC research

Adult Physical Activity Questionnaire Validation Study

SPARC has contracted the University of Auckland to conduct a study to validate a new physical activity questionnaire that will become part of the biennial SPARC New Zealand Sport and Physical Activity surveys. The results of the study will be available by the end of 2003.

The new questionnaire is going to gather more detailed information about physical activity. The previous Sport and Physical Activity survey asked only about leisuretime activity. The new questionnaire asks about all activity that people engage in (for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time); whether in their leisure-time, for transport (walking or cycling to work or school), in employment and incidental activities such as doing chores around the home (i.e. washing the car, washing windows etc).

The other major difference between the old and the new survey is that we are trying to find out about the intensity of the activities people do. So we want to know the proportion of people who do physical activities at either a moderate or vigorous intensity. This is important because activity done at a moderate or vigorous intensity can help protect and improve health. Physical activity guidelines recommend that all adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days per week. In addition, it is suggested that some vigorous activity is also added for extra health and fitness. The validation study will help us determine whether the questions we ask can accurately record the different intensities of the physical activities that people do and therefore we can measure how well the New Zealand population is doing in relation to these important guidelines.

Children and young people physical activity questionnaire

SPARC will also develop a new questionnaire to measure the physical activity levels of children and young people. This project is likely to begin in the next year.

Next Sport and Physical Activity survey and results.

Once both the adult and young people physical activity Survey have been developed and tested they will form a key part of the new Sport and Physical Activity survey that will be conducted in 2005/06. Results will be available in 2006.

Active Living Segmentation research

Over the last few years the Push Play campaign has been the main vehicle for promoting the importance of physical activity and encouraging New Zealanders to become more active. SPARC is now undertaking research to further improve the design and targeting of the Push Play campaign.

SPARC, along with the Cancer Society of New Zealand, has commissioned ACNielsen (in partnership with the University of Otago) to conduct a major physical activity and nutrition research project.

This is ground breaking research for New Zealand. It moves beyond traditional surveys that have documented the physical activity and nutrition habits of New Zealanders to focus on why people do, or do not, engage in specific behaviour. Furthermore, it goes beyond focusing on a single health issue in isolation by dealing with several health behaviours at the same time. As such, the research is attempting to understand what the barriers and motivations are behind the behaviours, how they are grouped and how they interact.

It is expected that the results of the survey will be available to SPARC and the Cancer Society by late 2003 and will then feed into the work of the organisation in the coming years.

International Prevalence Study (IPS)

An international consensus group has developed an international physical activity questionnaire (IPAQ) in an attempt to provide a standardised and comparable measure of physical activity across countries.

SPARC and the Ministry of Health are jointly funding New Zealand’s participation in this important study. This is the first time a validated comparative instrument has been used internationally to measure physical activity prevalence. The study includes 17 countries across a wide range socio-geographically; including Australia, United States, Finland, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Hong Kong, India and China.

The study will compare physical activity levels by duration, frequency (days per week), intensity (moderate, vigorous) and context (recreation, transport, occupation, incidental). It also looks at walking as a specific activity and sitting (inactivity). See the IPAQ website for more information:

Other sport and physical activity research

NZ Secondary School Sports Census

Every year the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council asks secondary schools to provide a representation census. These results reflect the national pattern of secondary school sports representation.

Periodically national sports representation surveys have also been commissioned which include data on the number of teachers, students and people from the local community who coach, manage and officiate in secondary sports programmes.

It should be noted that the census and the periodic surveys are focused primarily on sport and ask a different range of questions to the New Zealand Sport and Physical Activity surveys so they are not directly comparable.

New Zealand Health Survey

Results from the 2001/02 New Zealand Health Survey commissioned by the Ministry of Health will be available late 2003. The survey is a nationally representative survey of adults and children. In addition to asking people about their health and use of health services, the survey collects information about physical activity participation. The physical activity questions are based on the new physical activity questions developed for the SPARC Sport and Physical Activity Survey.

Children’s National Nutrition Survey

The Ministry of Health has also commissioned a national study into 5-14-year-old children’s nutrition behaviours. This study also asks about physical activity among these children. The results also are expected to be available late in 2003.

Remember for updated information on SPARC sport and physical activity research check the SPARC website: (under Research).