Regular physical activity plays an important part in children’s health by helping them to maintain an appropriate energy balance, which in turn helps to regulate weight. Physical activity also reduces the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and contributes to healthy bones and muscles.1 The most recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children aged 6-17 engage in 60 minutes of physical activity every day.2
Parents of children aged 6-17 were asked on how many days in the past week their children exercised, played a sport, or participated in physical activity for at least 20 minutes. Overall, 29.9 percent of children participated in physical activity every day, 34.4 percent did so on 4 to 6 days, 25.4 percent exercised on 1 to 3 days, and the remaining 10.3 percent did not participate in physical activity on any days in the past week.
In all locations, older adolescents (aged 12-17) were more likely than children aged 6-11 not to participate in physical activity at all. This discrepancy was greatest in small rural areas, where 5.7 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds got no physical activity, compared to 12.3 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds.
Girls were also more likely than boys not to participate in physical activity in all locations. Regardless of location, about 8.5 percent of boys got no exercise in the past week; for girls, this percentage ranged from 10.0 percent in small rural areas to 14.8 percent in large rural communities.
Children in small rural areas were the most likely to participate in physical activity every day (34.7 percent did so), while children in urban areas were the most likely to exercise on 1 to 3 days (25.8 percent).
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity. Overweight and obesity: contributing factors. Atlanta, GA: CDC, 2005.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. October 2008. http://www.health.gov/PAguidelines