HHS Report Shows 7 in 10 Adults are Not Active Regularly
For Release: Sunday, April 7, 2002
Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800
Secretary Thompson Joins 10-Mile Run To Promote Activity On World Health Day
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today issued a new report showing that 7 in 10 American adults are not regularly active during their leisure time – including 4 in 10 who are not active at all.
Secretary Thompson released the report on World Health Day as he prepared to join a 10-mile walk and run to draw attention to the proven benefits of physical activity. The World Health Organization has declared April 7, 2002, as World Health Day with the theme, “Move for Health,” to raise awareness about the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Lack of physical activity contributes to an estimated 300,000 preventable deaths annually in the United States, from diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“Good health is literally a walk away,” Secretary Thompson said. “You don’t have to work up a big sweat at the gym or become a long-distance runner. Just 30 minutes of walking a day, five days a week, can significantly improve your health. Playing with your kids in the backyard for an hour each day can help the whole family stay healthy.”
The new report, “Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among Adults: United States, 1997-98,” finds that nearly 62 percent of adults engaged in at least some kind of physical activity in their leisure time, but only 3 out of 10 adults were physically active on a regular basis. Regular physical activity was defined as “light-moderate exercise at least 5 times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time and/or vigorous physical activity at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes each time.
The report shows men were more likely than women to engage in at least some leisure-time physical activity, and young adults were more likely to be physically active than older adults. Seven out of 10 adults aged 18-24 engaged in at least some physical activity in their leisure time, almost twice the percentage of adults 75 years and older.
“People of all ages can benefit from being more active,” said Dr. David Fleming, acting director of the CDC. “There are many small things that people can do to increase their physical activity. People can take the stairs instead of the elevator or even park the car farther away at the grocery store.”
The report was based on over 68,000 household interviews with adults age 18 and over as part of the National Health Interview Survey, conducted the National Center for Health Statistics at HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Preliminary data through the first half of 2001 show that the percentage of adults who engage in regular physical activity has not changed significantly over the past four years.
The report found that about two-thirds of white non-Hispanic adults and Asian/Pacific Islander adults engaged in some form of leisure-time physical activity, compared to about half of black non-Hispanic adults and Hispanic adults. A quarter of white non-Hispanic adults were physically active on a regular basis, more than any other race or ethnic group.
Findings point to a number of other factors associated with whether people were physically active:
Education. Nearly 8 out of 10 adults with graduate level degrees engaged in at least some form of leisure-time physical activity, twice as many as those with less than a high school diploma.
Income. Adults with incomes at least four times the poverty level were twice as likely to engage in regular leisure-time physical activity than adults with incomes below the poverty level.
Marital Status. Married men and women were more likely than men and women in any other marital status group to engage in at least some leisure-time physical activity, though never-married adults were more likely than married adults to engage in “strengthening activities” such as weight-lifting or calisthenics. Widowed adults were less likely to engage in regular leisure-time physical activity than married adults.
Geography. Two-thirds of adults living in the Western part of the United States engage in at least some leisure-time physical activity, compared to 56 percent of adults living in the South. Adults who live in the suburbs are more likely to be physically active than adults in urban or rural areas.
As part of World Health Day, CDC also issued “Move for Health! A Resource Booklet Promoting Physical Activities.” The booklet defines the health risk and global burden of inactivity and the benefits of physical activity. A resource for community leaders and public health professionals, the booklet provides information on how to organize a World Health Day event, activities to motivate and educate individuals and communities, tips for working with the media, and more.
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