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Race/Ethnicity, Social Class, and Leisure-Time Physical Inactivity


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2007 - Volume 39 - Issue 1 - pp 44-51
doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000239401.16381.37
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

Purpose: The aims of this study were to determine 1) prevalence of leisure-time physical inactivity in a nationally representative sample of non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic men and women; 2) prevalence of leisure-time inactivity by racial/ethnic group across social class indicators; and 3) the relationship between leisure-time inactivity and occupational physical activity, independent of other social class indicators.

Methods: The National Physical Activity and Weight Loss Survey was a telephone survey of noninstitutionalized U.S. adults (4695 men, 6516 women) conducted by random digit dialing between September and December 2002. Self-reported physical activity was assessed using questions from the 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Respondents who reported no moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity during leisure time in a usual week were classified as inactive. Indicators of social class were education, family income, employment status, and marital status.

Results: Age-adjusted prevalence of leisure-time inactivity was 9.9% ± 0.6 SE (standard error) and 12.0 ± 0.6 for white men and women, respectively; 19.0 ± 2.5 and 25.2 ± 2.1 for non-Hispanic black men and women, and 20.9 ± 2.1 and 27.3 ± 2.5 for Hispanic men and women. Within each racial/ethnic group, prevalence of leisure-time inactivity was highest among participants of lower social class. Differences in inactivity by racial/ethnic group were less evident after adjustment for social class. Odds of inactivity were similar across quartiles of occupational physical activity after adjustment for age, sex, and social class.

Conclusions: Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics were more inactive during their leisure time than were non-Hispanic whites. Social class but not occupational physical activity seems to moderate the relationship between race/ethnicity and leisure-time physical inactivity.

1Department of Exercise & Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA; 2Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA; and 3Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Address for correspondence: Simon J. Marshall, Ph.D., Department of Exercise & Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-7251; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2006.

Accepted for publication July 2006.

©2007The American College of Sports Medicine