Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. SD 2.4 Regular physical exercise

04/01/1997

Sixty (60) 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.14 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 (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 1995, for example, 56 percent of 8th graders, 53 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 1995, for each age group, male rates were 17 to 19 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 and 10th grade are about equally likely to exercise regularly (see Table SD 2.4.A). Among 12th grade students, blacks appeared to be less likely than whites to exercise regularly during the 1990s, though this difference almost disappeared in 1995. Other survey data, reported in Table SD 2.4.B, show larger differences by race and ethnic group. Specifically, in 1995 67 percent of non-Hispanic white teens reported exercising at least three times a week, compared to 53 percent of non-Hispanic black teens and 57 percent of Hispanic teens (see Table SD 2.4.B).
 

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: 1995 

SD2_4.GIF

Source: Bachman, J.G., Johnston, L.D. and OMalley, P.M. The Monitoring the Future Study, University of Michigan, 8th and 10th grade 1991-1995 Questionaire Forms 1 and 2, and 12th grade 1976-1995 Questionnaire Form 2.
 
 

Table SD 2.4.A 
Percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th Grade Students Who Report that They Actively Participate in Sports or Exercise "Almost Every Day:" Selected Years, 1976-1995

                       
       
1976
1981
1986
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
                       
8th Grade 
  Total
--
--
--
57
55
55
53
56
    Gender
      Male
--
--
--
65
65
65
63
66
      Female
--
--
--
49
45
46
44
47
    Race/Ethnicity
      White
--
--
--
58
56
58
56
59
      Black
--
--
--
61
57
54
52
55
                       
10th Grade
  Total
--
--
--
54
54
53
53
53
    Gender
      Male
--
--
--
63
64
62
62
62
      Female
--
--
--
45
45
45
44
45
    Race/Ethnicity
      White
--
--
--
55
55
54
54
55
      Black
--
--
--
54
52
56
50
52
                       
12th Grade
  Total
44
48
44
46
46
44
45
45
    Gender
      Male
52
56
54
55
59
55
56
55
      Female
36
39
36
36
33
33
36
37
    Race/Ethnicity
      White
43
47
46
48
48
46
49
46
      Black
49
53
43
43
41
39
39
48
                       
Source: Bachman, J.G., Johnston, L.D. and OMalley, P.M. "The Monitoring the Future Study," University of Michigan, 8th and 10th grade 1991-1995 Questionnaire Forms 1 and 2, and 12th grade 1976-1995 Questionnaire Form 2. Data for the 12th grade based on one of six questionnaire forms with a resulting sample size one-sixth of the total sample size for each year.

 
 

Table SD 2.4.B 
Percentage of Teens in Grades 9-12 Who Report Having Exercised Vigorously Three or More Times in the Past Seven Days: 1993 and 1995

                   
       
1993
1995
       
 
 
       
Total
Male
Female
Total
Male
Female
       
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
66
75
56
64
74
52
                   
  Grade
      9
75
81
68
72
80
62
      10
70
77
61
69
79
59
      11
63
71
53
60
72
47
      12
58
70
45
55
67
42
                   
  Race/Ethnicity
    White, non-Hispanic  
68
76
59
67
76
57
    Black, non-Hispanic  
60
71
49
53
68
41
    Hispanic  
59
69
50
57
70
45
                   
Note: Vigorous physical exercise is defined as activities that caused sweating and hard breathing for at least 20 minutes.  

Source: Kann L., Warren, C.W., Harris, W.A., Collins, J.L., Williams, B.I., Ross, J.G., and Kolbe, L.J. "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance -- United States, 1993." Vol. 44, No. SS-1 and "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance -- United States, 1995." Vol. 45, No. SS-4.

 

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

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