Introduction: Regular physical activity reduces the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Physical activity is associated inversely with overweight and obesity prevalence, thus potentially assisting in weight control efforts.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the variability of physical activity levels and their patterns by self-reported weight control status in a nationally representative sample.
Methods: Four years of data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were used to examine leisure-time physical activity patterns (regular, irregular, inactive) and the prevalence of weight control practices (trying to lose, trying to maintain, not trying to lose or maintain) among U.S. adults (N = 9496).
Results: The prevalence of regular physical activity was 32.6% among people trying to lose weight, 37.9% among people trying to maintain weight, and 21.8% among those not trying to lose or maintain weight. Those trying to lose weight were almost three times as likely to be regularly active (vs inactive), and those trying to maintain weight were over three times more likely to be regularly active (vs inactive) than those not trying to lose or maintain weight. The most commonly reported activities among those trying to lose weight were walking (38.3%), yard work (14.5%), biking (12.5%), and running (11.6%).
Conclusions: Despite the importance of physical activity, fewer than half the people trying to lose or maintain weight were regularly active during leisure-time. People trying to lose or maintain weight had a higher likelihood of being regularly active than those not trying to lose or maintain weight. Walking was the most common type of physical activity among all weight control groups. Health promotion efforts should promote increased levels of physical activity among all adults.