Physical Activity

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In 2016, 26.9% of adults reported no physical activity in their leisure time.

Summary graph for Physical Activity, Click to see detailed view of graph

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Introduction

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has the potential to reduce both cancer- and non-cancer-related morbidity. In particular, physical activity may reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrium (lining of the uterus), and it may also lower a person’s risk of other health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis (bone thinning). Being active may also help to prevent weight gain and obesity, which can reduce the risk of developing cancers that have been linked to excess body weight.

Physical activity also improves the quality of life among cancer patients and survivors. Studies are beginning to explore the potential for physical activity, including aerobic, strength, and flexibility training, to improve cancer survival rates.

Several national groups offer recommendations for engaging in regular physical activity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 1 hour of physical activity every day for children and adolescents, and 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, for adults each week. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week.

Measure

Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who reported no leisure-time physical activity during the past month and percentage of adults who meet both the aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines.

Healthy People 2020 Target

  • Reduce the percentage of adults who engage in no leisure-time physical activity to 32.6 percent.
  • Increase the proportion of adults who meet the objectives for aerobic physical activity and for muscle-strengthening activity to 20.1 percent.

Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Note: Goals are indicated as blue line on Detailed Trend Graphs.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey 1992–2016.

Trends and Most Recent EstimatesHelp with navigating the graphs and data tables

No Leisure Time Physical Activty

By Sex
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by sex, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by sex, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 26.9 25.7 - 28.1
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 25.2 23.9 - 26.6
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 28.4 27.0 - 29.8
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by race/ethnicity, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by race/ethnicity, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 26.9 25.7 - 28.1
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 22.7 21.5 - 23.9
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 36.3 33.8 - 38.8
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 36.7 33.6 - 39.8
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by poverty income level, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by poverty income level, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 40.1 38.4 - 41.9
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 21.5 20.4 - 22.8
By Education Level
Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by highest level of education obtained, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by highest level of education obtained, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 47.2 44.1 - 50.3
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 38.2 36.3 - 40.1
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 20.1 19.0 - 21.3

Meet Federal Guidelines

By Sex
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by sex, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by sex, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 22.3 21.5 - 23.1
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 26.1 25.0 - 27.3
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 18.7 17.8 - 19.6
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by race/ethnicity, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by race/ethnicity, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 22.3 21.5 - 23.1
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 24.7 23.8 - 25.6
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 20.8 18.7 - 23.1
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 16.5 14.9 - 18.2
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by poverty income level, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by poverty income level, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 13.4 12.5 - 14.5
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 26.1 25.1 - 27.0
By Education Level
Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by highest level of education obtained, 1997-2016
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2016)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who meet current Federal guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity by highest level of education obtained, 1997-2016 click for more details and datapoints Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 8.8 7.4 - 10.5
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 13.1 11.9 - 14.3
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 26.4 25.4 - 27.4

Evidence-based Resources

Resources are available on physical activity on the Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T. web portal. Learn about evidence-based practices, federal guidelines, intervention strategies and evidence-based interventions.

Additional Information on Physical Activity

For the public

Scientific reports

Statistics

Year Range

1997-2016

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2012-2016

Summary Tables

Weight and Physical Activity

Recent Summary Trend

Falling

Desired Direction

Falling