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Physical Activity Patterns in American High School Students:  Results From the 1990 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Gregory W. Heath, DHSc, MPH; Michael Pratt, MD, MPH; Charles W. Warren, PhD; Laura Kann, PhD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148(11):1131-1136. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170110017003.
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Objective:  To assess by self-reported participation in vigorous physical activity, the quantity and quality of school physical education, team sports, and television watching among 11 631 American high school students.

Results:  Of all students in grades 9 through 12, 37% reported engaging in 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity three or more times per week. Participation in vigorous physical activity was higher among boys than girls (P<.01) and higher among white students than among those of other races and ethnic groups (P<.01). Overall, 43.7% of boys and 52% of girls reported that they were not enrolled in physical education classes. Of the students who reported attending physical education class during the past 2 weeks, 33.2% reported exercising 20 minutes or more in physical education class three to five times per week. In contrast, rates of participation in varsity and junior varsity sports remained constant across grade levels, but participation in recreational physical activity programs showed a lesser magnitude and also decreased with advancing grade. More than 70% of students reported spending at least 1 hour watching television each school day, and more than 35% reported watching television 3 hours or more each school day.

Conclusions:  Participation in vigorous physical activity and physical education class time devoted to physical activity are substantially below the goals set in Healthy People 2000. As students move toward graduation, we observed disturbing declines in participation in community recreation programs and overall vigorous activity. Students appear to spend considerably more time watching television than participating in physical activity. Public health efforts should focus on increasing the physical activity levels of our youth to enhance their current well-being and to reduce the risks of future chronic disease.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148:1131-1136)

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