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Physical Activity

Narrative

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity every day, most of which should be moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.1 Data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System showed that 28.7 percent of high school students were physically active for at least 60 minutes on each of the 7 previous days. This represents an increase in adolescent physical activity from the 2009 level of 19.4 percent.

Overall, 13.8 percent of students did not participate in 60 or more minutes of physical activity on any day in the preceding week. The rate was higher for females (17.7 percent) than males (10.0 percent) and among Asian (22.2 percent), non-Hispanic Black (19.6 percent), and Hispanic (15.9 percent) high school students compared to non-Hispanic Whites (11.0 percent; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Participation in recommended levels of physical activity varied by sex and grade level. Among high school students in all grades, a smaller proportion of females reported 60 minutes of physical activity on each of the previous seven days than males. Among 9th graders, 22.2 percent of females achieved recommended levels of physical activity, compared to 38.8 percent of their male counterparts. By 12th grade, only 14.9 percent of females met the recommended levels compared to 34.9 percent of males in the same grade.

In 2011, 51.8 percent of high school students attended physical education (PE) classes at least one day per average school week. The rate decreased with each grade level: 68.1 percent of 9th grade students attended PE class on one or more days in an average week, while the same was true for 54.6 percent of 10th graders, 42.9 percent of 11th graders and 38.5 percent of 12th grade students. Overall, only 31.5 percent of high school students attended daily PE classes in 2011 (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

In 2011, 58.4 percent of high school students reported playing on at least one sports team in the past year. This was more common among younger adolescents than older adolescents (61.4 percent of 9th graders compared to 52.5 percent of 12th graders). Sports participation also varied by sex. Just over one-half of adolescent females (52.6 percent) reported playing on at least one sports team in the past year, compared to 64.0 percent of males. These differences increased with age: while 57.1 percent of 9th grade females reported sports participation in 2011, only 44.5 percent of 12th grade females did so. Among males, the rates of past-year sports team participation declined from 65.6 percent among 9th graders to 60.2 percent among 12th graders (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Accessed: June 20, 2012.

Graph

This image is described in the Data section.

high school student physical activity graph

Data

Physical Activity* Among High School Students, by Sex and Grade Level, 2011
Grade level Percent of High School Students
Total Male Female
*Defined as physical activity that increased their heart rate and made them breathe hard some of the time for a total of at least 60 minutes on each of the last 7 days.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Online: High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Accessed: 06/20/12.
Total 28.7 38.3 18.5
9th Grade 30.7 38.8 22.2
10th Grade 30.8 42.6 17.9
11th Grade 27.3 36.2 18.0
12th Grade 25.1 34.8 14.9