TABLE 1-2 Trends in Leisure Time and Physical Activity of U.S. Adults, Children, and Youth



Children and Youth

Available leisure time

Adults ’free time increased by 14% between 1965 and 1985 to an average of nearly 40 hours per week based on Americans’ Use of Time Study (Robinson and Godbey, 1999).

From 1981 to 1997, children aged 3 to 12 years experienced a decline in their free time by seven hours per week (Sturm, 2005a).

Leisure-time physical activity

There have been increases in reported leisure-time physical activity among U.S. adults based on NHES, NHANES, BRFSS, and trend data on sports and recreational participation (Pratt et al., 1999; French et al., 2001).

There was a slight increase in self-reported physical activity levels among adults, based on the 1990-1998 BRFSS, from 24.3% in 1990 to 25.4% in 1998 (CDC, 2001).

There was a slight decrease in adults reporting no physical activity at all (from 30.7% in 1990 to 28.7% in 1998) (CDC, 2001).

An estimated 61.5% of children aged 9 to 13 years do not participate in any organized physical activity during their nonschool hours and 22.6% do not engage in any free-time physical activity based on the 2002 YMCLS (CDC, 2003a).

From 1981 to 1997, children aged 3 to 12 years experienced an increase in time spent in organized sports and outdoor activities (Sturm, 2005a).

Moderate to vigorous physical activity

Based on the 2001 BRFSS, 45.4% of adults reported having engaged in physical activities consistent with the recommendation of a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week in 2001. However, 54.6% of U.S. adults were not sufficiently active to meet these recommendations (CDC, 2003c).

High school students in grades 9 to 12 are not engaging in recommended levels of moderate or vigorous physical activity based on the YRBS (CDC, 2003b, 2004c; see Chapter 7).

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