U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Physical Activity

Regular physical activity promotes health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight; enhances independent living; and improves one’s quality of life.1 The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans states that for substantial health benefits, women should engage in at least 2½ hours per week of moderateintensity or 1¼ hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent
combination of both, plus muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days per week. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.2

In 2008, fewer than 15 percent of women met the recommendations for adequate physical activity. The percentage of women reporting adequate physical activity generally decreases as age increases. Women aged 18–24 and 25–44 years were most likely to have engaged in adequate physical activity (16.8 and 17.4 percent, respectively). Women aged 65 years and older were least likely to engage in adequate amounts of physical activity (8.4 percent).

The proportion of women engaging in the recommended amount of physical activity also varies by race and ethnicity and poverty status. Overall, non-Hispanic White women were more likely to have reported adequate physical activity (16.9 percent) than non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic women (9.7 and 9.6 percent, respectively).

Among each of these racial and ethnic groups, the proportion of women engaging in adequate physical activity was highest among those with household incomes of 200 percent or more of poverty. Among Hispanic women, however, almost twice as many women with incomes below 100 percent of poverty engaged in adequate physical activity as compared to those with incomes between 100–199 percent of poverty (8.2 versus 4.4 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic White women with incomes below 100 percent of poverty and 100–199 percent of poverty had comparable rates of adequate physical activity (10.4 and 9.3 percent, respectively).

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. October 2008. [online] http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/, accessed 12/07/09.

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