Physical Activity Facts
- Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.1
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6–17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.2
- In 2013, 27.1% of high school students surveyed had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on all 7 days before the survey, and only 29% attended physical education class daily.3
- Schools can promote physical activity through comprehensive school physical activity programs, including recess, classroom-based physical activity, intramural physical activity clubs, interscholastic sports, and physical education.
- Schools should ensure that physical education is provided to all students in all grades and is taught by qualified teachers.
- Schools can also work with community organizations to provide out-of-school-time physical activity programs and share physical activity facilities.
Physical Activity and the Health of Young People
Benefits of Regular Physical Activity
Regular physical activity—
- Helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles.1
- Helps reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer.1
- Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.1
- May help improve students’ academic performance, including
- Academic achievement and grades
- Academic behavior, such as time on task
- Factors that influence academic achievement, such as concentration and attentiveness in the classroom.4
Long-Term Consequences of Physical Inactivity
- Overweight and obesity, which are influenced by physical inactivity and poor diet, can increase one’s risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and poor health status.5-7
- Physical inactivity increases one’s risk for dying prematurely, dying of heart disease, and developing diabetes, colon cancer, and high blood pressure.1
Participation in Physical Activity by Young People
- In a nationally representative survey, 77% of children aged 9–13 years reported participating in free-time physical activity during the previous 7 days.4
- In 2013, only 29% percent of high school students had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on each of the 7 days before the survey.3
- 15.2% percent of high school students had not participated in 60 or more minutes of any kind of physical activity on any day during the 7 days before the survey.3
- Participation in physical activity declines as young people age.3
Percentage of High School Students Participating in Physical Activity and Physical Education, by Sex, 20133
|Type of Activity||Females||Males|
|Physically active at least 60 minutes/daya||17.7%||36.6%|
|Attended physical education classes dailyb||24.0%||34.9%|
aAny kind of physical activity that increased heart rate and made them breathe hard some of the time for at least 60 minutes per day on each of the 7 days before the survey.
bAttended physical education classes 5 days in an average week when they were in school.
Participation in Physical Education Classes
- In 2013, less than half (48%) of high school students (64% of 9th-grade students but only 35% of 12th-grade students) attended physical education classes in an average week.3
- The percentage of high school students who attended physical education classes daily decreased from 42% in 1991 to 25% in 1995 and remained stable at that level until 2013 (29%).3
- In 2013, 42% of 9th-grade students but only 20% of 12th-grade students attended physical education class daily.3
- Monitoring Student Fitness Levels [PDF - 1.52 MB]
- Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools
- School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
- Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool
- Youth Physical Activity Guidelines Toolkit
- The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Physical Education, and Academic Performance [PDF - 2.5 KB] (Full report) Executive Summary [PDF - 309 KB]
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2008.
- CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2013. MMWR 2014;63(SS-4).
- CDC. The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.
- Daniels S, Arnett D, Eckel R, et al. Overweight in children and adolescents: pathophysiology, consequences, prevention, and treatment. Circulation 2005;111:1999–2012.
- Institute of Medicine. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.
- Dietz WH. Overweight in childhood and adolescence. New England Journal of Medicine 2004;350:855–857.
- CDC. Physical activity levels among children aged 9–13 years—United States, 2002. MMWR 2003;52(SS-33):785–788.
- Page last reviewed: June 17, 2015
- Page last updated: June 17, 2015
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