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
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
- CDC. Physical activity and health:
A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1996.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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):
- 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.
- 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.
- CDC. Physical activity levels among children
aged 9–13 years—United States, 2002. Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report August 22, 2003; 52 (SS-33):
- CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2005 [pdf 300K]. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2006;55(SS-5):1–108.
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