Edinformatics Home
Health and Fitness Education
Today is
Related Resources

Aerobic Exercise

Disease Prevention

Complementary and Alternative Medicine


Nutrient Foods
Special Diets
Food Supplements
Nutrition for Seniors
Careers in Health and Fitness
Job Interview Tips

Job Search Methods





Physical Activity and the Health of Young People

Benefits of 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 and cardiovascular disease.1

  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.1

Long-Term Consequences of Physical Inactivity

  • Overweight and obesity, influenced by physical inactivity and poor diet, are significantly associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and poor health status.2

  • Physical inactivity increases the risk of dying prematurely, dying of heart disease, and developing diabetes, colon cancer, and high blood pressure.1

Obesity Among Youth

  • The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6–11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years and among adolescents aged 12–19 has more than tripled.3,4

  • Children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults;5 one study showed that children who became obese by age 8 were more severely obese as adults.6

Participation in Physical Activity by Young People

  • During the 7 days preceding the survey, 77% of children aged 9-13 reported participating in free-time physical activity.7

  • Thirty-six percent of high school students had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on 5 or more of the 7 days preceding the survey.8

  • Sixty-four percent of high school students participated in sufficient vigorous physical activity, and 27% participated in sufficient moderate physical activity.8

  • Participation in physical activity declines as children get older.1

Percentage of High School Students Participating in Physical Activity and Physical Education, by Sex, 20058

Type of Activity Girls Boys
At least 60 minutes/day of physical activity(a) 27.8% 43.8%
Attended physical education class daily(b) 29.0% 37.1%

a) Any 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 5 or more of the 7 days preceding the survey
b) Attended physical education classes 5 days in an average week when they were in school

Participation in Physical Education Classes

  • Over half (54%) of high school students (72% of 9th grade students but only 39% of 12th grade students) attended physical education classes in 2005.8

  • The percentage of high school students who attended physical education classes daily decreased from 42% in 1991 to 25% in 1995, and has remained stable at that level until 2005 (33%). In 2005, 45% of 9th grade students but only 22% of 12th grade students attended physical education class daily.8

  • Among the 54% of students who attended physical education classes, 84% actually exercised or played sports for 20 minutes or longer during an average class.8


  1. CDC. Physical activity and health: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996.
  2. Mokdad AH, Ford ES, Bowman BA, et al. Prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and obesity-related health risk factors, 2001. Journal of the American Medical Association 2003;289(1):76-79.
  3. Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in overweight among U.S. children and adolescents, 1999-2000. Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;288:1728–1732.
  4. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999-2004. Journal of the American Medical Association 2006;295(13): 1549-1555.
  5. Ferraro KF, Thorpe RJ Jr, Wilkinson JA. The life course of severe obesity: Does childhood overweight matter? Journal of Gerontology 2003;58B(2):S110-S119.
  6. Freedman DS, Khan LK, Dietz WH, Srinivasan SR, Berenson GS. Relationship of childhood obesity to coronary heart disease risk factors in adulthood: the Bogalusa Study. Pediatrics 2001;108(3):712-718.
  7. CDC. Physical activity levels among children aged 9–13 years—United States, 2002. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report August 22, 2003; 52 (SS-33): 785-788.
  8. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2005 [pdf 300K]. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2006;55(SS-5):1–108.


Documents on this page are available in Portable Document Format (PDF). Learn more about viewing and printing these documents with Acrobat Reader.

Questions or Comments?
Copyright © 1999 EdInformatics.com
All Rights Reserved.