Leisure-time physical activity among US adults. Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Arch Intern Med. 1996 Jan 8;156(1):93-8.


Background: The prevalence of no leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) among US adults is estimated to be between 24% and 30%. Such information, however, usually does not include prevalence estimates for non-Hispanic blacks, Mexican Americans, and the elderly.

Objective: To assess the prevalence of participation in leisure-time physical activity among US adults.

Methods: Between 1988 and 1991, 9488 adults aged 20 years and older were interviewed in their home as part of the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. A clinic examination in a mobile center was also included. Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic blacks, and the elderly were oversampled to produce reliable estimates for these groups. Questions were asked about the type and frequency of physically active hobbies, sports, and exercises.

Results: The prevalence of no LTPA for US adults aged 20 years or older from 1988 through 1991 was 22%. The rate was higher in women (27%) than in men (17%). Mexican-American men (33%) and women (46%) and non-Hispanic black women (40%) had the highest rates of no LTPA. Participation in moderate to vigorous LTPA five or more times per week decreased with age, with the largest decreases observed among non-Hispanic black men and women. In almost all subpopulations, gardening and/or yard work and walking were stated as the two top LTPAs of choice.

Conclusions: Many Americans are inactive or irregularly active during their leisure time. Rates of inactivity are greater for women, older persons, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican Americans. Intervention strategies meant to promote lifetime physical activities among all Americans represents a major health priority.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • United States
  • White People / statistics & numerical data