- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

Americans have become more active during their leisure time compared with a decade ago, according to a study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The percentage of adults engaging in no physical activity, other than at their jobs, was 23.7 percent in 2004, down from nearly 30 percent in 1994, the study said.

“This report summarizes the first prevalence estimates for leisure-time physical inactivity for all 50 states and D.C., using 11 years of state-based data,” said an editorial note attached to the published analysis.

“The findings … demonstrate that the nationwide prevalence of leisure-time physical inactivity for U.S. adults has declined an average of 0.6 percent per year, during an 11-year period,” the editorial comment said, adding:

“In 2004, approximately 21 percent of men and 26 percent of women reported no leisure-time physical activity, which is the lowest reported prevalence in the past decade.”

In contrast, in 1994, almost 28 percent of men and 31.5 percent of women were totally inactive, said Judy Kruger and other authors who work in the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, which is part of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Researchers are encouraged by what has been a continued drop in the proportion of American adults who avoid all exercise in their leisure time. They cited previous data from 35 states and the District, which showed the percentage of completely inactive adults fell between 1996 and 2002.

They note that this decline has occurred while trends in the share of U.S. adults who are “regularly active at the recommended levels” has remained relatively stagnant.

“Despite the benefits of physical activity, more than half of adults in the United States are not regularly active at the recommended levels,” the authors write.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that every adult engage in at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, preferably every day.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants to reduce the percentage of adults who remain sedentary in their leisure time to 20 percent by 2010. Last year, men in two age groups — 18 to 29 and 30 to 39 — were the only populations that achieved that national objective. Men ages 18 to 29 had the lowest prevalence of physical inactivity last year: 16.4 percent.

The CDC researchers analyzed data from a state-based telephone survey of American civilians 18 and older, known as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Among the findings:

• The largest decline was among men ages 50 to 59 (from 33.8 percent to 23.5 percent) and among women, ages 60 to 69 (37.8 percent to 28.5 percent).

• Among racial/ethnic groups, leisure-time inactivity was lowest among non-Hispanic white men, decreasing from 26.4 percent in 1994 to 18.4 percent in 2004.

• For both men and women, the highest prevalence of physical inactivity was among those 70 and older.

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