Adolescent physical activity and inactivity vary by ethnicity: The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health

J Pediatr. 1999 Sep;135(3):301-6. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(99)70124-1.


Objectives: To determine the extent to which physical activity and inactivity patterns vary by ethnicity among subpopulations of US adolescents.

Study design: Nationally representative data from the 1996 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health of >14,000 US adolescents (including 3135 non-Hispanic blacks, 2446 Hispanics, and 976 Asians).

Methods: Hours per week of inactivity (TV viewing, playing video or computer games) and times per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity were collected by using questionnaire data. Multinomial logistic regression models of physical activity and inactivity were used to adjust for sociodemographic factors.

Results: Large ethnic differences are seen for inactivity, particularly for hours of television or video viewing per week (non-Hispanic blacks, mean = 20.4; non-Hispanic whites, mean = 13.1). Physical activity (>/=5 bouts of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, 5-8 metabolic equivalents) is lowest for female and minority adolescents. Ethnic differences are far greater for inactivity than for moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Conclusion: Minority adolescents, with the exception of Asian females, have consistently higher levels of inactivity. Results vary by sex; males have higher inactivity and physical activity, whereas lowest physical activity is found for non-Hispanic black and Asian females, although Asian females also have low inactivity and low levels of overweight. Overall, efforts to reduce the problem of adolescent overweight should focus on increasing activity levels of adolescents, particularly female, older, and major minority subpopulations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology*
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Asian / statistics & numerical data*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*