Sedentary and physically active behavior patterns among low-income African-American and white adults living in the southeastern United States

PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e59975. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059975. Epub 2013 Apr 3.


Increased sedentary behavior and lack of physical activity are associated with increased risk for many chronic diseases. Differences in leisure-time physical activity between African American and white adults have been suggested to partially explain racial disparities in chronic disease outcomes, but expanding the definition of physical activity to include household and occupational activities may reduce or even eliminate racial differences in total physical activity. The objective of this study was to describe patterns of active and sedentary behaviors in black and white adults and to examine these behaviors across demographic measures. Sedentary and physically active behaviors were obtained from a validated physical activity questionnaire in 23,021 black men, 9,899 white men, 32,214 black women, and 15,425 white women (age 40-79) at enrollment into the Southern Community Cohort Study. Descriptive statistics for sedentary time; light, moderate, and vigorous household/occupational activity; sports/exercise; total activity; and meeting current physical activity recommendations via sports/exercise were examined for each race-sex group. Adjusted means were calculated using multiple linear regression models across demographic measures. Study participants spent approximately 60% of waking time in sedentary behaviors. Blacks reported more television viewing time than whites (45 minutes for females, 15 minutes for males), but when sitting time was expressed as a proportion of overall awake time, minimal racial differences were found. Patterns of light, moderate, and vigorous household/occupational activity were similar in all race/sex groups. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans were followed by 16% of women and 25% of men independent of race. Overall, black and white men and women in this study spent the majority of their daily time in sedentary behaviors and less than one-fourth followed current guidelines for physical activity. These results indicate that public health campaigns should focus on both reducing sedentary behavior and increasing physical activity in all adult US populations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American
  • Cohort Studies
  • Community Health Centers
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Poverty
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Social Class
  • Southeastern United States
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People