Physical Inactivity: A National Trend

January 25, 2016
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Society as a whole seems to understand that physical activity generally results in improved health. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest people who are physically active tend to live longer, have better weight control, and may improve academic achievement. Additionally, exercise can lower the risk of health related issues and disease such as, heart disease, strokes, type II diabetes, depression and cancer. High profile interventions, such as the First Lady’s “Let’s Move! Campaign”( and the NFL’s “Play 60”, may cause expectation that trends towards healthier living will occur. However, alarming data emerging from the CDC seem to contradict this assumption.

The majority of exercise totals for both adults and children are well under the recommended amount of weekly physical activity. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. Only 21% of adults were attaining that goal in 2014. The guidelines for children recommend 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day with three days of vigorous activity per week. Only 30% of high school students (14-18) met this goal in 2014. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey only one quarter of children ages 6-15 achieved moderate physical activity for at least five days a week.

Physical activity varies by region as well. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s Prevalence and Trends Data for Exercise in 2012 concluded that it is likely that individuals living in the South to get less physical exercise than individuals living in other regions, such as the Northeast, Midwest or Northwest.

The CDC found that physical activity is also linked to the group to which individuals associate (ie. gender, age and socioeconomic status). The CDC suggests that some groups as a whole are more prone to attaining the recommended amount of physical activity than others. 23% of white adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines compared to 18% of black adults and 16% of Hispanic adults. Males attain the recommended amount of aerobic activity at a higher rate than females, 54% to 46%. Younger adults are more likely achieve the aerobic activity goal than older adults. Finally, in terms of socioeconomic status, individuals with more education and higher income are more likely to meet the recommended aerobic activity guidelines.

The CDC focuses on a community level to combat inactivity.  Communities that promote activity enjoy benefits such as safer communities, better social cohesion, reduced air pollution, and economic benefits. Look forward to future posts that will discuss more about organizations, programs, and individuals working to promote healthy active lifestyles and increasing the quality of life for the children in our communities.


Centers for Disease Control. 2014. Facts about Physical Activity. Accessed Nov. 24, 2015.

Centers for Disease Control, 2008. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Adults. Accessed Nov. 24, 2015.

Centers for Disease Control, 2008. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Children. Accessed Nov. 24, 2015. 

Centers for Disease Control. 2015. Community Strategies. Accessed Nov. 24, 2015.

Troiano RP, Berrigan D, Dodd KW, Masse LC, Tilert T, Mcdowell M. Physical activity in the United States measured by accelerometer. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008;40:181- 8.