Background: The dramatic rise in Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD) in the oil-producing countries of the Arabian Peninsula is driven in part by insufficient physical activity, one of the five main contributors to health risk in the region. The aim of this paper is to review the available evidence on physical activity and sedentary behaviour for this region. Based on the findings, we prioritize an agenda for research that could inform policy initiatives with regional relevance. Methods: We reviewed regional evidence on physical activity and sedentary behaviour to identify the needs for prevention and policy-related research. A literature search of peer-reviewed publications in the English language was conducted in May 2016 using PubMed, Web of Science and Google Scholar. 100 studies were identified and classified using the Behavioural Epidemiology Framework. Results: Review findings demonstrate that research relevant to NCD prevention is underdeveloped in the region. A majority of the studies were epidemiological in approach with few being large-scale population-based studies using standardised measures. Correlates demonstrated expected associations with health outcomes, low levels of physical activity (particularly among young people), high levels of sedentary behaviour (particularly among men and young people) and expected associations of known correlates (e.g. gender, age, education, time, self-motivation, social support, and access). Very few studies offered recommendations for translating research findings into practice. Conclusions: Further research on the determinants of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in the Arabian Peninsula using standard assessment tools is urgently needed. Priority research includes examining these behaviours across the four domains (household, work, transport and leisure). Intervention research focusing on the sectors of education, health and sports sectors is recommended. Furthermore, adapting and testing international examples to the local context would help identify culturally relevant policy and programmatic interventions for the region.
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