Regular physical activity promotes health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight. To reduce the risk of chronic disease, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity on most days of the week for adults. To prevent weight gain over time, the Guidelines recommend about 60 minutes of physical activity per day.1

In 2003, women of all ages were less likely to report engaging in regular physical activity than men. The largest differences were observed among the youngest and oldest segments of the population. At 18 to 24 years, 36.8 percent of women reported regular physical activity, compared to 48.4 percent of men. Among those aged 75 and older, 14.3 percent of women reported regular physical activity, compared to 23.0 percent of men. With increased age, rates of self-reported physical activity decreased among both men and women.

Physical activity in adolescence is important to health in adulthood. Childhood obesity or other health issues related to lack of physical activity may be a precursor for adverse health effects in adulthood,2 and physical activity during youth may be a habit that is carried into adulthood. In 2003, 51.0 percent of female high school students played on one or more sports teams; the rate was lower among 12th graders than 11th graders and younger students. Among all high school females, 52.8 percent were enrolled in physical education; however, only 26.4 percent attended these classes daily.

Graph: Adults Who Engaged in Recommended Amounts of Physical Activity[d]

Graph: High School Females Participating in Sports and Physical Education Classes[d]

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. 6th edition, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005.

2 Boreham C, Riddoch C. The physical activity, fitness, and health of children. Journal of Sports Sciences 2001 Dec;19(12):915-29.