Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 2.4 Regular Physical Exercise

01/01/2000

Sixty percent of Americans do not exercise regularly, according to a 1996 report by the surgeon general, despite the many health benefits associated with physical activity.26 People of all ages, both male and female, benefit from regular physical activity. Significant health benefits can be obtained by including a moderate amount of physical activity (e.g., 30 minutes of brisk walking or raking leaves, 15 minutes of running, or 45 minutes of playing volleyball) on most, if not all, days of the week.

The percentage of 12th-grade students who report actively participating in sports or exercise “almost every day” has remained fairly stable since 1976, varying between 44 and 48 percent. Rates have also been stable for 8th- and 10th-grade students since 1991, the first year in which data were collected for those grades (see Table SD 2.4.A).

Differences by Age. The percentages of students who report that they actively participate in sports or exercise “almost every day” decreased with age. In 1999, for example, 53 percent of 8th graders, 52 percent of 10th graders, and 45 percent of 12th graders reported daily or almost daily exercise (see Figure SD 2.4). A similar pattern emerged in a survey that asked teens whether they had exercised vigorously three or more times in the past week (see Table SD 2.4.B).

Differences by Gender. Males consistently report exercising or participating in sports more often than females. In 1999, for each age group, male rates were 14 to 17 percentage points higher than female rates, a trend that exists for nearly every year that data are available (see Table SD 2.4.A).

Differences by Race. Black and white students in the 8th grade are about equally likely to exercise regularly (see Table SD 2.4.A). Among 10th- and 12th-grade students, blacks appeared to be less likely than whites to exercise regularly in 1999. Other survey data, reported in Table SD 2.4.B, show larger differences by race and Hispanic origin. In 1999, 67 percent of white teens reported exercising vigorously at least three times a week, compared with 56 percent of non-Hispanic black teens and 61 percent of Hispanic teens.

 

26 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1996. Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

 

Table SD 2.4.A Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States who report that they actively participate in sports or exercise "almost every day," by gender and race: Selected years, 1976-1999

  1976 1981 1986 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
8th Grade
Total 57 55 55 53 56 54 55 53 53
Gender  
Male 65 65 65 63 66 63 63 61 60
Female 49 45 46 44 47 47 48 45 46
Race  
White 58 56 58 56 59 57 58 56 55
Black 61 57 54 52 55 56 56 54 55
10th Grade
Total 54 54 53 53 53 52 52 50 52
Gender  
Male 63 64 62 62 62 60 60 58 60
Female 45 45 45 44 45 44 45 42 44
Race  
White 55 55 54 54 55 53 54 52 54
Black 54 52 56 50 52 53 52 47 47
12th Grade
Total 44 48 44 46 46 44 45 45 45 45 44 45
Gender  
Male 52 56 54 55 59 55 56 55 58 56 53 54
Female 36 39 36 36 33 33 36 37 32 36 35 37
Race  
White 43 47 46 48 48 46 49 46 48 46 46 48
Black 49 53 43 43 41 39 39 48 40 38 38 40

Sources: Bachman, Johnston, & O’Malley, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 (prepublication tables). 8th and 10th grade 1991 Questionnaire Forms 1 and 2, item A04E; 1992-1996 Questionnaire Forms 1 and 2, item A03E; and 1997 Questionnaire Forms 1-6, item A03E. 12th grade 1976, 1981, 1986, and 1991-1997 Questionnaire Form 2, item A02H.

 

Figure SD 2.4 Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who report that they actively participate in sports or exercise “almost every day,” by gender: 1999

Source: Bachman, Johnston, & O’Malley, 1999 (prepublication tables), items A03E and A02H.

 

Table SD 2.4.B Percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 in the United States who report having exercised vigorously three or more times in the past 7 days, by gender, grade, and race and Hispanic origin: 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999

  1993 1995 1997 1999
  Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female
Total 66 75 56 64 74 52 64 72 54 65 72 57
Grade  
Ninth 75 81 68 72 80 62 73 79 66 73 77 68
Tenth 70 77 61 69 79 59 66 74 56 65 73 56
Eleventh 63 71 53 60 72 47 60 69 49 58 67 49
Twelfth 58 70 45 55 67 42 58 68 44 61 71 52
Race and Hispanic origina  
White 68 76 59 67 76 57 67 73 58 67 75 60
Black 60 71 49 53 68 41 54 67 41 56 65 47
Hispanic 59 69 50 57 70 45 60 69 50 61 72 50

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Note: Vigorous physical exercise is defined as activities that cause sweating and hard breathing for at least 20 minutes.
Sources: Kann et al., 1995, Table 24, p. 53; Kann et al., 1996, Table 36, p. 78; Kann et al., 1998, Table 36, p. 84.

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