2 tables omitted
Three national health objectives for 2010 (objectives no. 22-6, 22-7,
and 22-11) aim to increase levels of physical activity and reduce sedentary
behavior among children and adolescents.1 To
promote a healthy, more active lifestyle among U.S. youth, CDC developed the
Youth Media Campaign (YMC), a national initiative to encourage children aged
9-13 years to engage in and maintain high levels of regular physical activity.
To provide a baseline assessment of physical activity levels among children
aged 9-13 years, CDC conducted the YMC Longitudinal Survey (YMCLS), a nationally
representative survey of children aged 9-13 years and their parents. This
report presents data from the survey, which indicate that 61.5% of children
aged 9-13 years do not participate in any organized physical activity during
their nonschool hours and that 22.6% do not engage in any free-time physical
activity. Improving levels of physical activity among this population will
require innovative solutions that motivate children and that address parents'
perceived barriers to their children engaging in physical activity.
YMCLS is a national, random-digit–dialed telephone survey of children
aged 9-13 years and their parents. CDC surveyed approximately 4,500 child/parent
dyads living in approximately 3,600 households; 3,120 child/parent dyads (representing
87.0% of eligible adult respondents and 81.3% of eligible child respondents)
completed a survey.* Data were adjusted for parent and child nonresponses
and standardized to decennial census estimates of children's race/ethnicity,
age, and sex. WesVarPC software was used to calculate point estimates and
95% confidence intervals.2 Data on race/ethnicity
were analyzed only for non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic
children aged 9-13 years because numbers for other racial/ethnic populations
were too small for meaningful analysis. T-tests were conducted when appropriate
by using a Bonferoni adjustment to identify statistically significant differences
Participation in an organized physical activity was defined as self-reported
participation during the 7 days preceding the survey in a physical activity
"with an organized group that has a coach, instructor, or leader." Participation
in free-time physical activity was defined as self-reported engagement during
the 7 days preceding the survey in a free-time physical activity. Participation
in both after-school and weekend physical activities was included; participation
in activities engaged in during the school day was excluded. Parents were
asked about their perceptions of five potential barriers to their children's
participation in physical activities: transportation problems, lack of opportunities
to participate in physical activities in their area, expense, parents' lack
of time, and concerns about neighborhood safety.
Fewer children aged 9-13 years reported involvement in organized sports
(38.5%) than in free-time physical activity (77.4%) during the 7 days preceding
the survey. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children were significantly less
likely (p<0.05) than non-Hispanic white children to report involvement
in organized activities, as were children with parents who had lower incomes
and education levels.
Although parents generally perceived the same barriers to participation
in physical activities regardless of the child's sex and age, concerns about
transportation, opportunities in their area, and expense were reported significantly
more often (p<0.05) by non-Hispanic black and Hispanic parents than by
non-Hispanic white parents. Concerns about neighborhood safety were reported
more frequently for girls (17.6%) than for boys (14.6%) and were reported
more frequently by Hispanic parents (41.2%) than by non-Hispanic white (8.5%)
and non-Hispanic black (13.3%) parents. Overall, parents with lower incomes
and education levels reported more barriers.
Regardless of race/ethnicity, age, and sex, the three organized physical
activities engaged in most often by children aged 9-13 years were baseball/softball,
soccer, and basketball. Among children aged 12-13 years, basketball was mentioned
most often by non-Hispanic black girls and boys, soccer was mentioned most
often by Hispanic girls and boys, and baseball/softball was mentioned most
often by non-Hispanic white girls and boys. Among children aged 9-11 years,
dance was among the three activities mentioned most often by non-Hispanic
black and white girls, and baseball/softball and soccer were mentioned most
often by Hispanic boys. Overall, regardless of age or sex, children reported
that their most frequent free-time activities were riding bicycles and playing
basketball. Basketball was the only activity that was reported frequently
for both organized and free time. Bicycle riding was reported more frequently
by children aged 9-11 years, and basketball was the most common free-time
activity among children aged 12-13 years. Other activities engaged in frequently
during free time were walking and playing active games (reported by girls),
playing football (reported by boys), and running and playing active games
(reported by girls and boys).
J Duke, PhD, Westat, Rockville, Maryland. M Huhman, PhD, C Heitzler,
MPH, Youth Media Campaign, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion, CDC.
The findings in this report constitute the first nationally representative
information about levels and types of physical activity among children aged
9-13 years. The findings indicate that although the majority of children aged
9-13 years engage in some level of free-time physical activity, increased
rates of participation in both free-time and organized physical activities
are needed, especially for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children.
Insufficient physical activity is a risk factor for persons being overweight
or obese and for having many related chronic diseases,3 and
regular physical activity is associated with immediate and long-term health
benefits (e.g., weight control, lower blood pressure, improved cardiorespiratory
function, and enhanced psychological well-being).4,5 Active
children are more likely to become active adults,6 but
as many children age into adolescence, their physical activity levels decline.7,8
The findings in this report are subject to at least five limitations.
First, YMCLS is a telephone survey and does not include U.S. households without
telephone service. Second, data were self-reported and subject to error, including
respondent over-reporting of socially desirable responses. Third, because
data were weighted to the national population of children aged 9-13 years
as the main unit of analysis, parent estimates might not represent precisely
the national population of parents. Fourth, because the survey was conducted
during April-June, the activities reported might reflect seasonal participation
in certain sports. Finally, duration of physical activity could not be measured
because children aged <10 years are unable to aggregate minutes of physical
activity accurately over several days.
Although the primary purpose of the data collection described in this
report was to establish a baseline level of physical activity among children
aged 9-13 years, these data can help public health agencies and community
organizations assess current and future needs of middle school children and
plan physical activity programs and interventions. The survey findings demonstrate
a need to address common barriers to participation in organized physical activities
among children, especially members of certain racial/ethnic populations.
Participation in an organized sport probably will result in a meaningful
increase in time spent in physical activity. However, socioeconomic barriers
that might impede participation in organized sports do not exist for free-time
play. For this reason, current promotional efforts focus on increasing free-time
physical activity. In October 2002, CDC initiated a media campaign, VERBTM It's what you do, a 5-year effort to
promote physical activity through research, media, partnership, and community
efforts. VERB advertisements aimed at children portray physical activity as
being "cool," fun, and socially appealing; advertisements aimed at parents
encourage them to engage in physical activity with their children and suggest
ways to overcome perceived barriers to physical activity. VERB partnership
efforts address other issues, including the need to ensure access to safe
and affordable physical activity opportunities, both free-time and organized.
Information about the VERB campaign is available at http://www.cdc.gov/verb. Additional information about VERB is available at http://www.verbnow.com (for children) and at http://www.verbparents.com (for parents).
Information about receiving regular e-mail updates about VERB is available
*Of the 48,675 households sampled, persons in 29,444 (60.5%) households
completed the screening interview. Of 3,543 eligible adult respondents, 3,084
(87.0%) completed the parent interview, and of 3,840 eligible child respondents,
3,120 (81.3%) completed the child interview. The overall response rate, 42.8%,
is the product of the completion rate for the screening, parent, and child
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