Disparities in adolescent physical activity between sex, race, and income

Originally Published By 2 Minute Medicine®. Reused on MPR with permission.

1. In this study of the patterns of physical activity in adolescents and young adults, young age, white race, and higher income were all associated with greater physical activity.

2. Among those who were active, black males aged 18-24 years reported the longest period of physical activity per day, while black females reported the least.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Study Rundown: Physical activity remains an important predicator of long-term health, with many well established benefits for protection from cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Many factors influence an individual's ability to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity. The current study sought to evaluate patterns of reported physical activity in young adults and adolescents so as to inform policies and improve targeted interventions. The study found that white adolescent males were most likely to report physical activity, and in adjusted models youth, white race, and higher income were all associated with greater physical activity.

The study demonstrates that while most young adults and adolescents report some physical activity, many are not meeting the recommended physical activity level. The importance of income, race, and gender may help inform policies to target interventions for improving physical activity in certain demographics. The main strengths of the study include its large, modern sample size. The major limitations are the cross-sectional design, and reliance on self-reported activities level.

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Click to read the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Secular and longitudinal physical activity changes in population‐based samples of children and adolescents

In-Depth [cross-sectional study]: This study is a cross-sectional investigation that used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database using participants from 2007 to 2016. Participants were included if they were aged 12 to 29 years and excluded underweight individuals. Physical activity levels were self-reported.

The study found that 89.3% of white adolescent males reported physical activity while only 45% of black females reported any physical activity. In adjusted analysis, physical activity level was associated with younger age, white race, and higher income.

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