Associations between social support and recommended physical activity level among patients with metabolic syndrome

Talk Code: 
Sabine Vesting
Maria Larsson, PhD
Author institutions: 
University of Gothenburg, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Physiotherapy


Lifestyle-related diseases, such as the metabolic syndrome, are major contributors to the global burden of disease and their inverse relationship with physical activity is widely accepted. Preventing and managing the metabolic syndrome with an early lifestyle intervention in primary care is of increasing importance. Patients often have ambivalent feelings about increasing their physical activity level. There is a need to identify resources and barriers for lifestyle changes. However, research on the association between physical activity and mediators that could increase the physical activity level is still limited. The purpose of this paper was to investigate associations between the mediator ‘social support’ and the achievement of a recommended physical activity level in a group of patients with metabolic syndrome who received the lifestyle intervention ‘physical activity on prescription’ (PaP).


In a four-year period, data were collected at 15 primary health care centres in Gothenburg. In total 402 patients between 27 and 80 years of age were included and answered a questionnaire on physical activity and various covariates at baseline. 330 patients were re-interviewed after six months (missing cases: 18%). Social support as independent variable using Sallis’ Social Support for Exercise Scale was analyzed in association with the dependent variable physical activity level in a logistic regression analysis.


The main finding of this study was that there are associations between social support and the recommended physical activity level when data are analyzed on a subgroup level. Males have significantly higher odds of achieving the recommended level of physical activity with the support of family. A further sub-group analysis shows significant results for male patients between 27-53 years. Family support correlates positive with the achievement of the recommended physical activity level for this group (OR= 11.03; p-value= 0.004).


Social support can come from varied sources and influence different groups of age and gender. This study shows that social support of family is important for the achievement of a recommended physical activity level in male patients. The results of this study are partly in line with the literature and increase the understanding of resources that can support this important patient group in primary care

Submitted by: 
Sabine Vesting