GSB 7.1 Standardlösung

Physical inactivity

Physical activity describes any form of movement that increases energy metabolism. This can take place in different areas: as recreation, in the work environment, at home or as movement from one place to another. The indicator used here focusses exclusively on physical activities during leisure time (Finger et al., 2015). Work-related physical activity is not included. Physical inactivity (that is failure to meet the recommendations mentioned below) is a major risk factor for the development of non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Key messages

  • Over half of all adults do not meet the WHO recommendations of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.
  • The prevalence of physical inactivity varies according to education level and federal state.

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By state


  • By gender


  • By age


  • By education group



In 2014, the prevalence of physical inactivity in the adult population was 54.7% (women: 57.4 %; men: 52.0 %), with only minor differences between age groups. At an advanced age, physical limitations lead to an increase in inactivity. There are slight differences between federal states: whereas over 60% of the population in Saxony (women: 65.5%; men: 60.2%) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (women: 60.8%; men: 60.6%) were physically inactive, less than 50% were in Bremen (women: 52.4%; men: 42.1%) and Schleswig Holstein (women: 53.7%; men: 45,2%). In addition, fewer people in the high-education group (44.3%) were physically inactive in their leisure time than those in the low-education group (62.3%).


Across all age groups, more than half of all adults in Germany do not meet the WHO recommendation of at least 2.5 hours of aerobic physical activity per week. As a result, it is vital that public health measures promoting physical activity, such as those included in the National Recommendations for Physical Activity and Physical Activity Promotion, be further expanded (Rütten & Pfeifer, 2017).

Show more information on methodology and data sources


The indicator Physical inactivity is defined as the proportion of the population who do not meet WHO(WHO, 2010) recommendations on moderate-intensity aer­obic physical activity (≥ 2.5 hours per week) during leisure time.


A variable is composed of self-reported data on leisure activities and cycling. The time spent on leisure activities and cycling are summed up and the results are compared with WHO recommendations.

  • Leisure activities: ‘How much time do you spend in a typical week on sports, fitness, or physical activity in your free time?’

    • Time in minutes
  • Cycling:

    • ‘How many days in a typical week do you ride a bike for at least 10 minutes without stopping to get from place to place?’

      • Number of days from 0 to 7
    • ‘How long do you ride a bike for on a typical day to get from place to place?’

      • 10-29 minutes a day
      • 30-59 minutes a day
      • 1 hour to less than 2 hours a day
      • 2 hours to less than 3 hours a day
      • 3 hours a day or more

Formula for the calculation of physical activity

Reference population

German-speaking resident population in Germany, aged 18 years and over 

Data source

Nationwide RKI interview survey GEDA 2014/2015-EHIS based on a sample from registration offices and self-completion questionnaire (online/written).

Number of cases

  • GEDA 2014/15-EHIS: n = 24,016


  • Description: For the indicator, the figures for total, women and men are provided and are stratified by age group, residential area and education as far as the number of cases available for the figure is ≥ 5 and the statistical uncertainty in the estimate of the indicator is not considered too large (a coefficient variation ≤ 33.5%).
  • Stratification: The geographical classification of the residence of the participating person was carried out by federal state. Educational status was determined using the CASMIN index, which takes information on both school and vocational training into account and allows a categorisation into a low, medium and high education group.
  • Weighting: In order to correct for deviations from the underlying reference population due to different participation rates or sampling probabilities, a weighting factor was used when calculating the indicator. This adjusts the survey to the structure of the resident population in Germany of the reference population in terms of sex, age, federal state, municipality type and education as of 31 December 2014. 

Data quality

RKI interview surveys provide representative results for the resident population of Germany aged 18 years and over. As is the case in all population-based studies, underrepresentation of the seriously ill and those living in institutions must be assumed. Furthermore, all information is self-reported and not based on personal interviews conducted by study physicians or standardized measurements or examinations.

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