Race/ethnicity, social class, and leisure-time physical inactivity

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Jan;39(1):44-51. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000239401.16381.37.


Purpose: The aims of this study were to determine 1) prevalence of leisure-time physical inactivity in a nationally representative sample of non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic men and women; 2) prevalence of leisure-time inactivity by racial/ethnic group across social class indicators; and 3) the relationship between leisure-time inactivity and occupational physical activity, independent of other social class indicators.

Methods: The National Physical Activity and Weight Loss Survey was a telephone survey of noninstitutionalized U.S. adults (4695 men, 6516 women) conducted by random digit dialing between September and December 2002. Self-reported physical activity was assessed using questions from the 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Respondents who reported no moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity during leisure time in a usual week were classified as inactive. Indicators of social class were education, family income, employment status, and marital status.

Results: Age-adjusted prevalence of leisure-time inactivity was 9.9% +/- 0.6 SE (standard error) and 12.0 +/- 0.6 for white men and women, respectively; 19.0 +/- 2.5 and 25.2 +/- 2.1 for non-Hispanic black men and women, and 20.9 +/- 2.1 and 27.3 +/- 2.5 for Hispanic men and women. Within each racial/ethnic group, prevalence of leisure-time inactivity was highest among participants of lower social class. Differences in inactivity by racial/ethnic group were less evident after adjustment for social class. Odds of inactivity were similar across quartiles of occupational physical activity after adjustment for age, sex, and social class.

Conclusions: Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics were more inactive during their leisure time than were non-Hispanic whites. Social class but not occupational physical activity seems to moderate the relationship between race/ethnicity and leisure-time physical inactivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Racial Groups*
  • Social Class*
  • United States