Purpose: To describe physical activity levels of children (6-11 yr), adolescents (12-19 yr), and adults (20+ yr), using objective data obtained with accelerometers from a representative sample of the U.S. population.
Methods: These results were obtained from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES), a cross-sectional study of a complex, multistage probability sample of the civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. population in the United States. Data are described from 6329 participants who provided at least 1 d of accelerometer data and from 4867 participants who provided four or more days of accelerometer data.
Results: Males are more physically active than females. Physical activity declines dramatically across age groups between childhood and adolescence and continues to decline with age. For example, 42% of children ages 6-11 yr obtain the recommended 60 min x d(-1) of physical activity, whereas only 8% of adolescents achieve this goal. Among adults, adherence to the recommendation to obtain 30 min x d(-1) of physical activity is less than 5%.
Conclusions: Objective and subjective measures of physical activity give qualitatively similar results regarding gender and age patterns of activity. However, adherence to physical activity recommendations according to accelerometer-measured activity is substantially lower than according to self-report. Great care must be taken when interpreting self-reported physical activity in clinical practice, public health program design and evaluation, and epidemiological research.