- Physical activity, combined with poor eating habits, contributes
to 400,000 preventable deaths (17% of total deaths) a year in
the United States. More than 40% of deaths in the United States
are caused by behavior patterns that could be modified. A sedentary
lifestyle is a major risk factor across the spectrum of preventable
diseases that lower the quality of life and kill Americans. Poor
diet and physical inactivity (combined) are rapidly approaching
tobacco (435,000 deaths) as the leading cause of preventable death
in the US.
- Adults 18 and older need 30 minutes of physical activity on
five or more days a week to be healthy; children and teens need
60 minutes of activity a day for their health.
Significant health benefits can be obtained by including a
moderate amount of physical activity (e.g., 30 minutes of brisk
walking or raking leaves, 15 minutes of running, 45 minutes
of playing volleyball). Additional health benefits can be gained
through greater amounts of physical activity.
Thirty to sixty minutes of activity broken into smaller segments
of 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day has significant health
Moderate daily physical activity can reduce substantially the
risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, type
2 diabetes, and certain cancers, such as colon cancer. Daily
physical activity helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol,
helps prevent or retard osteoporosis, and helps reduce obesity,
symptoms of anxiety and depression, and symptoms of arthritis.
Cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes) is the number
one killer of men and women in the United States. Physically
inactive people are twice as likely to develop coronary heart
disease as regularly active people. The health risk posed by
physical inactivity is almost as high as risk factors such as
cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Nearly half of American adults (4 in 10) report that they are
not active at all; 7 in 10 are not moderately active for the
recommended 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week.
Poor diet and inactivity can lead to overweight/obesity. Persons
who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for high blood
pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder
disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and
some types of cancer.
Poor diet and sedentary lifestyles can lead to type 2 diabetes.
In 2003, 17 million Americans had type 2 diabetes and 16 million
more had pre-diabetes. Each year, there are 1 million new cases,
and 200,000 people die from diabetes. The cost to the economy
is $132 billion in direct and indirect medical costs.
Obesity continues to climb among American adults. Nearly 50
million Americans are obese. More than 108 million adults are
either obese or overweight. That means roughly 3 out of 5 Americans
carry an unhealthy amount of excess weight. The cost of obesity
(direct and indirect medical costs) is $117 billion per year.
The percentage of adults in the United States who were overweight
or obese (body mass index greater than 25) in 1999 was 61%.
Overweight and obesity cuts across all ages, racial and ethnic
groups, and both genders. A new study in the Netherlands found
that excess weight cuts years off your life.
Overweight among children and teens has doubled in the past
two decades; 15% of children aged 6 to 11 years and 15% of adolescents
aged 12 to 19 years were overweight in 2000. This prevalence
has nearly tripled for adolescents in the past 2 decades. The
percentage of overweight African American, Hispanic, and Native
American children is about 20%.
Among children and teens, almost 9 million are overweight,
triple the proportion in 1980. More than 10 percent of children
between the ages of 2 and 5 are overweight, double the proportion
Health risks associated with being overweight or obese include
type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma,
The major barriers most people face when trying to increase
physical activity are time, access to convenient facilities,
and safe environments in which to be active.
School-based and workplace based interventions have been shown
to be successful in increasing physical activity levels.
Childhood and adolescence are pivotal times for preventing
sedentary behavior among adults by maintaining the habit of
physical activity throughout the school years.
Type 2 diabetes, once called "adult onset" diabetes,
high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, once thought to be
age-related, are now diagnosed in children and teens.
Physical activity among children and adolescents is important
because of the related health benefits (cardio-respiratory function,
blood pressure control, weight management, cognitive and emotional
Only about one-half of U.S. young people (ages 12-21 years)
regularly participate in vigorous physical activity. One-fourth
reported no vigorous physical activity. About 14 percent report
no recent vigorous or light-to-moderate activity.
According to a study done by the National Association of Sports
and Physical Education (NASPE), infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers
should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily
and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time
except when sleeping.
One quarter of U.S. children spend 4 hours or more watching
Young people are at particular risk for becoming sedentary
as they grow older. Encouraging moderate and vigorous physical
activity among youth is important. Because children spend most
of their time in school, the type and amount of physical activity
encouraged in schools are important.
Only 26 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 engaged
in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on 5 or
more of the previous 7 days in 2001.
Only 32 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 participated
in daily school physical education in 2001, down from 42 percent
Only 17 percent of middle and junior high school and 2 percent
of senior high schools require daily physical activity for all