conclusion can be drawn.8 On the other hand, a national survey that used the same definition (different from the above two) of physical activity from 1999 through 2005, a 6-year time frame, found that in 2005, 69 percent of students had participated in currently recommended levels (20 minutes of vigorous physical activity on 3 or more of the past 7 days and/or at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five or more times in the past week)—a percentage that had remained steady since 1999 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007c; MacKay and Duran, 2007).

Although the prevalence and trend over time in participation in physical activity are difficult to describe accurately, studies reveal disparities among the adolescent population by gender and race or ethnicity. Participation in physical activity at the current recommended level was found to be substantially more likely among male than female students, but did not vary greatly by age. Non-Hispanic white students were more likely than non-Hispanic black students to have met the recommended level. Non-Hispanic white and Hispanic students were more likely than non-Hispanic black students to participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007c; MacKay and Duran, 2007).

Adolescents aged 10–17 in rural areas are more likely than those in urban areas to participate in regular physical activity (3 or more days a week). Parents of girls aged 10–17 in urban areas report the lowest percentage of regular physical activity (Maternal and Child Health Bureau, 2005b).


The health status of adolescents can be characterized by the health conditions and behaviors discussed above. Not reflected in these data, however, is the fact that some groups of adolescents have particularly high rates of comorbid diseases, health conditions, or risky behaviors. As well, some groups of adolescents may face disparities or biases in the delivery of health services, as underscored by the Institute of Medicine (2003) report Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. These adolescents face special challenges, and highlighting their health status underscores the complex services and settings that need to be encompassed by a health system that is responsive to all adolescents. As described in Losing Generations: Adolescents in High Risk Situations, a report of the National Research Council (1993), these at-risk populations have had to confront negative aspects of the social environment that


Appropriate or currently recommended physical activity was defined in 2007 as being physically active for a total of 60 minutes or more per day on 5 or more of the past 7 days, and in 1985 was defined as engaging in activity requiring 60 percent or greater of an individual’s cardiovascular capacity at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes.

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