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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


Report looks at physical activity in both work and leisure time in the United States. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2003, vol.14, n.4, pp.289-292. ISSN 1680-5348.

A recent report that bears the title Physical Activity Among Adults: United States, 2000 describes one of the few studies in the world that quantify total daily energy expenditure among adults in a given population. Most studies that attempt to assess the level of physical activity performed by a country's inhabitants look at leisure-time physical activity or energy expenditures while on the job. By looking at just one of those two areas, such studies provide only a partial view of the overall physical activity levels within a population. The report on the adult population of the United States of America, which is based on the National Center for Health Statistic's National Health Interview Survey for the year 2000, draws on data obtained through approximately 39 000 household interviews, covering a total of more than 100 000 individuals from all 50 states. In essence, indicators were developed, based on frequency and duration, for regular leisure-time physical activity (exercise, sports, or active hobbies) as well as for the amount of "usual daily activity" (i.e., commuting, performing household chores, running errands, and engaging in other activities not performed during leisure time). Regular leisure-time physical activity was thus defined as light or moderate activity for a minimum of 30 minutes per session at least five times a week, or intense activity for a minimum of 20 minutes per session at least three times a week. Light or moderate activity was defined as activity lasting at least 10 minutes that caused light sweating and a slight to moderate increase in breathing or heart rate. Vigorous activity was defined as activity lasting at least 10 minutes that caused heavy sweating or large increases in breathing or heart rate. In the case of "usual daily activity," its magnitude was determined by the number of times a day an individual had to walk or to lift or carry light, moderate, or heavy loads. These two indicators-regular leisure-time physical activity and usual daily activity-were combined to obtain an indicator for "overall physical activity level." According to results, 19% of U.S. adults engage in a high level of physical activity, with men being more likely than women to engage in such activity. In both sexes, however, the level of physical activity declines with age, so that adults in the oldest age group (65 or older) were about five times as likely as adults in the youngest age group (18­24 years) to never be physically active. Women were also more likely than men to never engage in physical activity. One in every 4 adults in the United States engages in little physical activity or none. Those who are more active in their usual daily activities are also more likely to engage in regular physical activity during leisure time. Almost three fourths of adults lift or carry light to heavy loads during their usual activities. The report also examines the association between various socioeconomic and demographic variables and physical activity. Adults with incomes below the poverty level are three times more likely to be physically inactive than adults in the highest income group (4 times the poverty level or more). Around 15% of Hispanics, 14% of blacks, and 20% of whites engage in a high level of physical activity. In terms of education, individuals having an advanced degree are almost twice as likely as individuals without a high school diploma to have a high level of physical activity. In short, the report described herein provides an accurate assessment of overall physical activity among U.S. adults and identifies high-risk population subgroups that should be the target of health promotion activities geared toward increasing physical activity levels. The data it includes will be the basis for monitoring progress toward achieving the 2010 national health objectives for physical activity among adults in the United States.

Keywords : acondicionamiento físico; ejercicio; deportes; grupos étnicos; género; Estados Unidos de América.

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