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We Are Now More Health Conscious, Millennium Sports Study Reveals

21 September 2004

There has been a significant change in the behavior and attitudes related to physical activities of Hong Kong people following the outbreak of SARS last year, figures revealed by Millennium Sports Study (MSS) shown.

Commissioned by the Hong Kong Sports Development Board (HKSDB) and supported by the Arts and Sport Development Fund of the HKSAR Government, the MSS is the first ever large-scale survey on sport and physical activity in Hong Kong with the primary aim of providing stakeholders with strategic information to assist policy planning and programme development.

More than 10,000 respondents from 3,700 households across the territory were interviewed over a two periods of time - from October 2002 to February 2003 and from October 2003 to February 2004. The first phase was completed before the outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong while the next stage was launched after Hong Kong had recovered.

"The second phase of the MSS was conducted one year after the first phase and allowed us the unique opportunity to assess the impact of SARS on sports participation in the community," said Dr John Bacon-Shone, Convenor of the MSS Working Group and Director of the Social Sciences Research Centre at The University of Hong Kong.

An International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) coordinated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was applied in the Study to assess respondents' physical activity levels and their participation in sports activities during the previous three months.

Dr Chung Pak-kwong, Acting Executive Director of the HKSDB, said at the presentation, "Figures of the second phase have revealed that although levels of physical activity remain well below the recommended level to stay healthy, significant improvement has been observed among children and teenagers."

"Compared with figures from before the outbreak of SARS, more Hong Kong people now spend more time and participate more frequently in sport. Besides participating in sports, there is also a higher rate of spectatorship of sports (both live and via TV). In general, the community is more supportive of sports events. There is substantial support for the construction of more sports facilities and closure of roads/highways for hosting major international sports events in Hong Kong. There is a higher level of support for sport talent identification and elite training programmes. Hong Kong people are more health conscious and realise the importance of sports and physical activity in helping us to stay healthy as a consequence of the outbreak of SARS in 2003," Dr Chung added.

However, Dr Chung stated that the primacy of work and study over exercise and preferences for sedentary leisure-time activities remained the major barriers for not participating in sports. It is important therefore to provide sufficient sports facilities and organise promotional campaigns emphasising the importance of sports and physical activity participation in order to improve the physical activity levels in Hong Kong.