High School Students And Physical Activity


Written by Suzanne Hurley, CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

Many people are aware that too few U.S. high school students in grades 9-12 are getting enough physical activity. But do you know which groups of high school students are getting less physical activity than others?

The findings of a recent school-based study – the CDC 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS) – provide the answers. The results can be found in a June issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), but here are some highlights:

More high school male students than female students met the Healthy People 2020 aerobic and muscle strengthening activity objective:

  • 18.5% of male high school students
  • 5.8% of female high school students

Additionally, more students met the aerobic and muscle strengthening activity objective during their early high school years.

  • 15.0% of 9th graders
  • 12.3% of 10th graders
  • 10.7% of 11th graders
  • 10.3% of 12th-graders

Nationwide, only 15.3% met the aerobic objective of the Healthy People 2020 Physical Activity objectives, 51% met the muscle-strengthening objective, and 12.2% met the objective for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

Healthy People 2020 objectives measure recommended levels of youth physical activity and are based on the 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans:

Youth aged 6 to 17 years need at least 1 hour of physical activity each day, and muscle strengthening activity at least 3 days a week.

To improve youth physical activity participation, efforts are needed among CDC, state and local public health agencies, schools, and other public health partners that promote physical activity.

Communities have an important role to play in supporting efforts to promote or create school-based quality physical education programs, and to create or enhance access to places for physical activity.

Listen to a Podcast on the importance of physical activity. Read more information on school guidelines and strategies.

How can you improve physical activity participation rates among all high school students?