Background To compare and contrast youth physical activity (PA) and inactivity patterns in two developing Asian countries: the Philippines and China.
Methods Comparative analysis of 1997–1999 Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey and the 1997 China Health and Nutrition Survey, large-scale surveys that included questions on type, frequency and duration of: commuting mode to school, sports/exercise in and outside of school, select sedentary activities and chores.
Results Filipino data included 760 males and 872 females aged 14–16 years. The comparable Chinese sample consisted of 202 males and 197 females. Active commuting is proportionately high in both countries (70–71% in the Philippines vs. 77–90% in China), although commuting by bicycling is rare in the Philippines (<1%) vs. China (≈35%). Patterns of school sport/exercise participation differ between countries by gender; more Filipino males report school sport/exercise than females (63 vs. 49%) vs. China, where more females participate than males (75 vs. 69%). Sport/exercise outside of school is proportionately low (6–12%) for youth from both countries with a single exception: 74% of Filipino males participate in extra-curricular sport/exercise. Although a higher percentage of Filipino youth report watching television >4 h/day (<10%) vs. Chinese youth (<1%), both are lower than comparable US reports.
Conclusion In the Philippines, continued modernization augurs a decrease in local primary PA sources (chores and active commuting). In China, where youth already are not expected to perform chores, shifts to more passive commuting modes (i.e. increased motorized transportation) are anticipated.