Differences in leisure-time, household, and work-related physical activity by race, ethnicity, and education

J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Mar;20(3):259-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.40198.x.


Background: Racial and ethnic minority groups have lower levels of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) than whites, but it is unclear how much of this is explained by differences in socioeconomic status and health.

Objective: To examine differences in LTPA, work-related physical activity (WRPA; heavy household chores and strenuous job activities), and total physical activity (TPA) by race, ethnicity, and education.

Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional analyses of data from the 1992 Health and Retirement Study for a nationally representative cohort of 9,621 community-dwelling adults aged 51-61 years.

Measurements: Physical activity scores for LTPA, WRPA, and TPA based upon self-reported frequency of light or vigorous recreational activities, heavy household chores, and strenuous job-related physical activities.

Main results: LTPA was lower for blacks and Hispanics compared to whites, and LTPA steadily declined with lower levels of education. WRPA showed the reverse pattern, being lowest for whites and persons with greater education. Education was far more important than race/ethnicity as a determinant of LTPA and WRPA in multivariate analyses. After adjusting for differences in overall health and physical functioning, mean TPA scores were similar across racial/ethnic and education categories; blacks (beta=1.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.5 to 1.5) and Spanish-speaking Hispanics (beta=1.1; 95% CI, 0.3 to 1.9) had slightly higher levels of TPA than whites (P<.01 and P=.01, respectively).

Conclusions: Differences in educational attainment and health status accounted for virtually all of the racial and ethnic differences in LTPA. After accounting for WRPA, TPA was similar across race, ethnicity, and education subgroups.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Work / statistics & numerical data*