Physical Activity

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In 2017, 25.9% 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 bladder, breast, colon, endometrium (lining of the uterus), esophagus (adenocarcinoma), kidney, and stomach.  Physical activity 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. For people with colorectal cancer, women with breast cancer, and men with prostate cancer, greater amounts of physical activity are associated with reduced risk of morality from the original type of cancer. For people with colorectal cancer and women with breast cancer, greater amounts of physical activity are also associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality. 

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 1992–2017.

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, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 25.9 24.6 - 27.2
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 24.1 22.6 - 25.6
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 27.6 26.1 - 29.0
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by race/ethnicity, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 25.9 24.6 - 27.2
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 21.7 20.5 - 23.0
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 34.8 32.3 - 37.5
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 35.5 32.6 - 38.5
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by poverty income level, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 40.2 38.2 - 42.3
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 20.6 19.4 - 21.8
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, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 48.5 45.3 - 51.7
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 36.3 34.2 - 38.6
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 19.2 18.1 - 20.3

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, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 24.1 23.3 - 24.9
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 28.5 27.3 - 29.7
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 19.9 19.0 - 20.9
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, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 24.1 23.3 - 24.9
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 26.6 25.6 - 27.6
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 20.5 18.5 - 22.7
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 18.5 16.8 - 20.2
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, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 14.2 13.1 - 15.4
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 27.9 26.9 - 28.9
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, 1997-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
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, 1997-2017 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 8.8 7.3 - 10.5
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 14.7 13.4 - 16.2
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 27.8 26.9 - 28.7

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

1997-2017

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2013-2017

Summary Tables

Weight and Physical Activity

Recent Summary Trend

Falling

Desired Direction

Falling