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Physical Activity and Health - A Report of the Surgeon General
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Nutrition and Physical Activity


Chapter 5 Conclusions

Patterns and Trends in Physical Activity

Adults

  1. Approximately 15 percent of U.S. adults engage regularly (3 times a week for at least 20 minutes) in vigorous physical activity during leisure time.
  2. Approximately 22 percent of adults engage regularly (5 times a week for at least 30 minutes) in sustained physical activity of any intensity during leisure time.
  3. About 25 percent of adults report no physical activity at all in their leisure time.
  4. Physical inactivity is more prevalent among women than men, among blacks and Hispanics than whites, among older than younger adults, and among the less affluent than the more affluent.
  5. The most popular leisure-time physical activities among adults are walking and gardening or yard work.

Adolescents and Young Adults

  1. Only about one-half of U.S. young people (ages 12-21 years) regularly participate in vigorous physical activity. One-fourth report no vigorous physical activity.
  2. Approximately one-fourth of young people walk or bicycle (i.e., engage in light to moderate activity) nearly every day.
  3. About 14 percent of young people report no recent vigorous or light to moderate physical activity. This indicator of inactivity is higher among females than males and among black females than white females.
  4. Males are more likely than females to participate in vigorous physical activity, strengthening activities, and walking or bicycling.
  5. Participation in all types of physical activity declines strikingly as age or grade in school increases.
  6. Among high school students, enrollment in physical education remained unchanged during the first half of the 1990s. However, daily attendance in physical education declined from approximately 42 percent to 25 percent.
  7. The percentage of high school students who were enrolled in physical education and who reported being physically active for at least 20 minutes in physical education classes declined from approximately 81 percent to 70 percent during the first half of this decade.
  8. Only 19 percent of all high school students report being physically active for 20 minutes or more in daily physical education classes.

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Historical Document: November 17, 1999

United States Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity