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Physical Activity

Goal


Improve health, fitness, and quality of life through daily physical activity.


Overview


Structural environments, such as the availability of sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, and parks


Legislative policies that improve access to facilities that support physical activity


New to Healthy People 2020 are objectives related to policies targeting younger children through:


Physical activity in childcare settings


Television viewing and computer usage


Recess and physical education in the Nation’s public and private elementary schools


Why Is Physical Activity Important?


Regular physical activity can improve the health and quality of life of Americans of all ages, regardless of the presence of a chronic disease or disability.1, 2 Among adults and older adults, physical activity can lower the risk of:


Early death


Coronary heart disease


Stroke


High blood pressure


Type 2 diabetes


Breast and colon cancer


Falls


Depression


Among children and adolescents, physical activity can:


Improve bone health.


Improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness.


Decrease levels of body fat.


Reduce symptoms of depression.


For people who are inactive, even small increases in physical activity are associated with health benefits.


Understanding Physical Activity


Personal, social, economic, and environmental factors all play a role in physical activity levels among youth, adults, and older adults. Understanding the barriers to and facilitators of physical activity is important to ensure the effectiveness of interventions and other actions to improve levels of physical activity.


Factors positively associated with adult physical activity include:


Postsecondary education


Higher income


Enjoyment of exercise


Expectation of benefits


Belief in ability to exercise (self-efficacy)


History of activity in adulthood


Social support from peers, family, or spouse


Access to and satisfaction with facilities


Enjoyable scenery


Safe neighborhoods


Factors negatively associated with adult physical activity include:


Advancing age


Low income


Lack of time


Low motivation


Rural residency


Perception of great effort needed for exercise


Overweight or obesity


Perception of poor health


Being disabled


Older adults may have additional factors that keep them from being physically active, including lack of social support, lack of transportation to facilities, fear of injury, and cost of programs.


Among children ages 4 to 12, the following factors have a positive association with physical activity:


Gender (boys)


Belief in ability to be active (self-efficacy)


Parental support


Among adolescents ages 13 to 18, the following factors have a positive association with physical activity:


Parental education


Gender (boys)


Personal goals


Physical education/school sports


Belief in ability to be active (self-efficacy)


Support of friends and family


Environmental influences positively associated with physical activity among children and adolescents include:


Presence of sidewalks


Having a destination/walking to a particular place


Access to public transportation


Low traffic density


Access to neighborhood or school play area and/or recreational equipment


People with disabilities may be less likely to participate in physical activity due to physical, emotional, and psychological barriers. Barriers may include the inaccessibility of facilities and the lack of staff trained in working with people with disabilities.


Emerging Issues in Physical Activity


Healthy People 2020 reflects a multidisciplinary approach to promoting physical activity. This approach brings about traditional partnerships, such as that of education and health care, with nontraditional partnerships representing, for example, transportation, urban planning, recreation, and environmental health. (For more information, see Web Site Policy.) Several new objectives reflect this emphasis—for example, physical activity policies regarding childcare (Objective 2020-9) and environmental settings (Objective 2020-15).


Data sources that are representative of the entire Nation are needed to monitor key characteristics of the environment, such as the availability of parks and trails, the usage of these spaces, and policies that promote physical activity at worksites, in communities, and in schools.


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