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Women's Health USA 2013 An illustrated collection of current and historical data, published annually.

Physical Activity

Narrative

Regular physical activity is critical for people of all ages to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, prevent chronic disease, and promote psychological well-being. In older adults, physical activity also helps to prevent falls and improve cognitive functioning.1 The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that for substantial health benefits, adults should engage in at least 2½ hours per week of moderate intensity (e.g., brisk walking or gardening) or 1¼ hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., jogging or kick-boxing), 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 2009–2011, 16.6 percent of women met the recommendations for both adequate aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, compared to 24.0 percent of men (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Muscle-strengthening activities provide additional benefits to those of aerobic exercise, such as increased bone strength;3 however, women were much less likely to meet recommended levels of muscle-strengthening activity as compared to aerobic activity (19.8 versus 43.9 percent, respectively).

Physical activity varied by education and race and ethnicity. Compared to women with less than a high school diploma, women with a college degree were more than twice as likely to meet aerobic activity guidelines (59.3 versus 25.9 percent, respectively) and four times as likely to meet muscle-strengthening guidelines (30.4 versus 7.6 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic White women and non-Hispanic women of multiple races were generally more likely to report adequate levels of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity than women of other race and ethnic groups. For example, about 23 percent of non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic women of multiple races reported adequate levels of muscle-strengthening activity compared to 15 percent or less among women of other races and ethnicities.

While not everyone may have access to fitness facilities, communities can promote physical activity through designs that include sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, walking trails, and parks.4

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services link leaves hrsa.gov site. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. October 2008. Accessed 09/02/13.

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services link leaves hrsa.gov site. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. October 2008. Accessed 09/02/13.

3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services link leaves hrsa.gov site. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. October 2008. Accessed 09/02/13.

4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services link leaves hrsa.gov site. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. October 2008. Accessed 09/02/13.

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Graphs

Data

Adequate Physical Activity* Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, by Educational Attainment and Activity Type, 2009-2011
Educational Attainment Percent of Women, Adequate Aerobic and Strengthening Activity Percent of Women, Adequate Aerobic Activity Percent of Women, Adequate Muscle-Strengthening Activity
*Adequate aerobic activity is defined as 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity activity or 1.25 hours per week of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of both; adequate muscle-strengthening activity is defined as performing muscle-strengthening activities, such as lifting weights or calisthenics, on 2 or more days per week; all estimates are age-adjusted.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2009-2011. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
Less than High School 5.2 25.9 7.6
High School or Equivalent 9.6 34.7 12.5
Some College 17.5 45.6 21.3
College Degree 27.1 59.3 30.4
Total 16.6 43.9 19.8
Adequate Physical Activity* Among Women Aged 18 and Older, by Race/Ethnicity** and Activity Type, 2009–2011
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Women, Adequate Aerobic Activity Percent of Women, Adequate Muscle-Strengthening Activity
*Adequate aerobic activity is defined as 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity activity or 1.25 hours per week of vigorous intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of both; inadequate activity is defined as moderate or vigorous activity for 10 minutes or more per week but less than then recommended level for adequate activity; inactive is defined as no leisure-time aerobic activity that lasted at least 10 minutes.
**The sample of Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders was too small to produce reliable results.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 2009-2011. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
Non-Hispanic White 48.5 22.6
Non-Hispanic Black 32.9 14.7
Hispanic 33.6 13.5
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 41.0 14.6
Non-Hispanic Asian 40.0 14.7
Non-Hispanic Multiple Race 48.2 22.9