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
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
|Race and Hispanic origina|
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.
"intro.pdf" (pdf, 633.22Kb)
"PF1.pdf" (pdf, 391.08Kb)
"PF2.pdf" (pdf, 574.76Kb)
"PF3.pdf" (pdf, 554.29Kb)
"ES1.pdf" (pdf, 338.59Kb)
"ES2.pdf" (pdf, 555.35Kb)
"ES3.pdf" (pdf, 582.37Kb)
"ES4.pdf" (pdf, 555.87Kb)
"HC1.pdf" (pdf, 373.14Kb)
"HC2.pdf" (pdf, 725.89Kb)
"HC3.pdf" (pdf, 586.99Kb)
"SD1.pdf" (pdf, 607.16Kb)
"SD2.pdf" (pdf, 628.97Kb)
"SD3.pdf" (pdf, 722.74Kb)
"SD4.pdf" (pdf, 689.79Kb)
"EA1.pdf" (pdf, 429.55Kb)
"EA2.pdf" (pdf, 633.06Kb)
"EA3.pdf" (pdf, 648.96Kb)
"Glossary.pdf" (pdf, 291.75Kb)