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Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

Latest Data

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and, although there has been some leveling off in recent years, rates remain at historically high levels. Between 1988–1994 and 2009–2010, the obesity rate increased by 57% among adults age 20 and over from 22.8% to 35.7% (age adjusted). During this same time period, the obesity rate among children and adolescents age 2 to 19 increased by 69% from 10.0% to 16.9%.

As highlighted in The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fruits and vegetables, as part of a healthy diet, are important for weight management and chronic disease prevention. In 2001–2004, the mean daily intake by persons age 2 and older was 0.8 cup equivalents of total vegetables per 1,000 calories (age adjusted). The Healthy People 2020 target asks for an increase to 1.1 cup equivalents per 1,000 calories (age adjusted).

The Federal Physical Activity Guidelines reflect the importance of regular physical activity as one of the most important things you can do for your health. Between 2008 and 2011, the rate of meeting physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening for adults age 18 and older increased by 14% from 18.2 to 20.8% (age adjusted), exceeding the Healthy People 2020 target, 20.1% (age adjusted). Meeting the Healthy People 2020 target for this objective is an important initial step in addressing physical activity among Americans. However, continued progress is necessary to achieve success in this area.

Leading Health Indicators

Explore the latest data and disparities for each indicator.
Physical Activity in Adults (PA-2.4)
Obesity in Adult (NWS-9)
Obesity in Children and Adolescents (NWS-10.4)
Total Vegetable Intake (NWS-15.1)

Physical Activity in Adults (PA-2.4)

  • Healthy People 2020 objective PA-2.4 is the Leading Health Indicator for physical activity and tracks the proportion of adults who meet current Federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity and for muscle-strengthening activity.
    • HP2020 Baseline: In 2008, 18.2% of persons aged 18 years and older were engaged in aerobic physical activity of at least moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes/week, or 75 minutes/week of vigorous intensity, or an equivalent combination and performed muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days of the week (age adjusted).
    • HP2020 Target: 20.1%, a 10 percent improvement over the baseline.
  • In 2011, adults who reported two or more races had the highest rate among racial and ethnic groups, with 23.6% of persons aged 18 years and over (age adjusted) who met current Federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity and for muscle-strengthening activity.  Rates for the other race/ethnic  groups were:
    • 18.0% - among Black non-Hispanic,
    • 22.9% - among White non-Hispanic
    • 15.2% - among Hispanics,
    • 16.4% - among American Indians or Alaska Native, and
    • 17.1% - among Asians. 
  • Other findings from 2011:
    • Males (24.6%, age adjusted) had a higher rate of meeting the current Federal physical activity guidelines than females (17.1%, age adjusted).
    • Persons with advanced degrees were more physically active than their counterparts (32.0%, age adjusted) when data are assessed by educational level for persons 25 years and over.  Those with less than a high school education and high school graduates had rates of 7.2% and 12.0% (age adjusted), respectively.
      • When expressed as persons not meeting the physical activity guidelines, the rate for the persons without a high school education was almost one and half times that for the persons with an advanced degree.  
    • Persons without activity limitations (22.8%, age adjusted) had a higher rate of meeting the physical activity guidelines than persons with activity limitations (10.9%, age adjusted).
  • Findings for additional population characteristics include:
    • Persons aged 18 to 24 years had the highest rate of meeting the physical activity guidelines, 30.3%, among age groups.  Rates for the other age groups were:
      • 24.5% among 25–44 years old,
      • 18.8% among 45–54 years old,
      • 16.1% among 55–64 year old,
      • 14.3% among 65–74 year old,
      • 8.9% among 75–84 year old, and
      • 4.5% among those aged 85 years and over.
    • Persons aged less than 65 years with private health insurance  had the highest rate (27.8%, age adjusted) among insurance groups. Those with public insurance and the uninsured had rates of 12.1% and 15.1% (age adjusted), respectively.
    • Persons in families with incomes 600% of the federal poverty limit and over had the highest rate of physical activity, 34.9% (age adjusted).  Rates for individuals in other income groups were:
      • 10.2% (age adjusted) for those with incomes under the federal poverty limit,
      • 13.2% (age adjusted) for those with incomes 100% to 199% of the federal poverty limit,
      • 19.2% (age adjusted) for those with incomes  200% to 399% of the federal poverty limit, and
      • 25.1% (age adjusted) for those with incomes 400% to 599% of the federal poverty limit.
    • Persons living in metropolitan areas (21.9%, age adjusted) had a higher rate of meeting the physical activity guidelines than those living in nonmetropolitan areas (14.7%, age adjusted).
    • Persons born outside the U.S. had a lower rate of meeting physical activity guidelines (14.5%, age adjusted) than persons born in the U.S. (22.2%, age adjusted).
    • Among persons aged 25 years and older, widowed persons had the lowest rate of meeting physical activity guidelines (11.7%, age adjusted) among groups by marital status.  Rates were 19.7, 18.7, and 20.7 percent (age adjusted) for married, divorced, and never married persons, respectively. 

Endnotes:

  • All disparities described are statistically significant at the 0.05 level of significance.
  • Data (except those by education, health insurance, and age group) are age adjusted to the 2000 standard population using the age groups 18–24, 25–34, 35–44, 45–64, and 65 years and over. 
  • Data by education are adjusted using the age groups 25–34, 35–44, 45–64, 65 years and over.
  • Data by health insurance coverage are adjusted using the age groups 18–44, 45–54, 55–64. Data by age group are not age adjusted. Age-adjusted rates are weighted sums of age-specific rates.
  • Data for this measure are available annually and come from the National Health Interview Survey, CDC/NCHS.

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Obesity in Adult (NWS-9)

  • Healthy People 2020 objective NWS-9 tracks the proportion of adults who are obese (BMI ≥ 30).
    • HP2020 Baseline: In 2005-08, 34.0% of adults aged 20 years and over were obese (age adjusted).
    • HP2020 Target: 30.6%, a 10 percent improvement over the baseline.
    • The percentage of adults aged 20 years and over who were obese increased by 17% between 1999-00 and 2009-10, from 30.5% to 35.7% (age adjusted). However, over the last decade there has been a slowing in the rise of the obesity rate compared with the prior two decades with no significant change observed between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.
  • Among racial and ethnic groups, the white non-Hispanic population had the lowest rate of obesity, 34.3% of persons aged 20 years and over (age adjusted) in 2009-10, whereas the black non-Hispanic and Hispanic populations had rates of 49.5% and 39.3% (age adjusted), respectively.

Adult Obesity by Race/Ethnicity, 2009–10

SOURCE: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC, NCHS.

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  • Persons without disabilities had a lower rate of obesity than persons with disabilities (34.2% versus 44.6%, age adjusted, in 2009-10). The rate for persons with disabilities was almost one and a half times the rate for persons without disabilities.
  • Among persons aged 25 years and over, college graduates or above had the lowest rate of obesity, 28.3% (age adjusted) in 2009-10, whereas persons with less than a high school education had a rate of 38.3% (age adjusted), high school graduates had a rate of 40.5% (age adjusted), and persons with some college education or an AA degree had a rate of 42.6% (age adjusted). The rates for persons with less than a high school education and high school graduates were almost one and a half times the best group rate; the rate for persons with some college education or an AA degree was about one and a half times the best group rate.
  • Persons born outside of the US had a lower rate of obesity than persons born in the US (27.0% versus 37.8%, age adjusted, in 2009-10). The rate for persons born in the US was almost one and a half times the rate for persons born outside of the US.
  • Persons aged 20-64 years without health insurance had the lowest rate of obesity, 30.8% (age adjusted) in 2009-10. The obesity rate for persons with public insurance, 44.8% (age adjusted), was about one and a half times the best group rate.
  • Persons aged 20–24 years had the lowest rate of obesity, 23.2% in 2009-10. Rates for the other age groups were:
    • 35.0% among persons aged 25–44 years; about one and a half times the best group rate.
    • 36.9% among persons aged 45–54 years; more than one and a half times the best group rate.
    • 42.0% among persons aged 55–64 years (highest rate); nearly two times the best group rate.
    • 44.2% among persons aged 65–74 years; nearly two times the best group rate.
    • 34.5% among persons aged 75–79 years; about one and a half times the best group rate.

Endnotes:

  • Unless otherwise stated, all comparisons described are statistically significant at the 0.05 level of significance.
  • Data for this measure are available biennially and come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC, NCHS. Preferably four years of data are pooled for analysis when available, but two-year data are used as a placeholder to provide the latest data available.
  • The terms "Hispanic or Latino" and "Hispanic" are used interchangeably in this report.
  • 2005-08 data (except those by education status, health insurance coverage, and age group) are age adjusted to the 2000 standard population using the age groups 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, and 80 years and over. Data by education status are adjusted using the age groups 25-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, and 80 years and over. Data by health insurance coverage are adjusted using the age groups 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60-64 years. 2009-10 data (except those by education status, health insurance coverage, and age group) are age adjusted to the 2000 standard population using the age groups 20-39, 40-59, and 60 years and over. Data by education status are adjusted using the age groups 25-39, 40-59, and 60 years and over. Data by health insurance coverage are adjusted using the age groups 20-39, 40-59, and 60-64 years. Data by age group are not age adjusted. Age-adjusted rates are weighted sums of age-specific rates.

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Obesity in Children and Adolescents (NWS-10.4)

  • Healthy People 2020 objective NWS-10.4 tracks the proportion of children and adolescents who are considered obese (BMI at or above the gender-and age-specific 95th percentile from the CDC Growth Charts; United States).
    • HP2020 Baseline: In 2005-08, 16.2% of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years were considered obese.
    • HP2020 Target: 14.6%, a 10 percent improvement over the baseline.
    • The percentage of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years who were considered obese increased by nearly 22% between 1999-00 and 2009-10, from 13.9% to 16.9%. However, over the last decade there has been a slowing in the rise of the obesity rate compared with the prior two decades with no significant change observed between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.
  • Among racial and ethnic groups, the white non-Hispanic population had the lowest rate of obesity, 14.0% of persons aged 2 to 19 years in 2009-10, whereas the black non-Hispanic and Hispanic populations had rates of 24.3% and 21.2%, respectively. The rate for the black non-Hispanic populations was more than one and a half times the rate for the white non-Hispanic population; the rate for the Hispanic populations was about one and a half times the rate for the white non-Hispanic population.
  • Persons born outside of the US had a lower rate of obesity than persons born in the US (13.2% versus 17.1% in 2009-10). The rate for persons born in the US was almost one and a half times the rate for persons born outside of the US.
  • Persons with private health insurance had the lowest rate of obesity, 14.7%. Those with public insurance and the uninsured had rates of 20.0% and 18.2%, respectively. The rate for persons with public insurance was almost one and a half times the best group rate.
  • Persons from families with incomes 500% of the federal poverty limit and over had the lowest rate of obesity, 11.5% in 2009-10. Rates for individuals in other income groups were:
    • 21.6% for those with incomes under the federal poverty limit; nearly twice the best group rate.
    • 17.4% for those with incomes 100% to 199% of the federal poverty limit; about one and a half times the best group rate.
    • 15.7% for those with incomes 200% to 399% of the federal poverty limit; almost one and a half times the best group rate.
    • 14.2% for those with incomes 400% to 499% of the federal poverty limit.

Child and Adolescent Obesity by Income, 2009–10

SOURCE: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC, NCHS.
NOTE: Obesity is defined as BMI at or above the age- and sex-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts for 2-19 years.

Accessible Version

Endnotes:

  • Unless otherwise stated, all comparisons described are statistically significant at the 0.05 level of significance.
  • Data for this measure are available biennially and come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC, NCHS. Preferably four years of data are pooled for analysis when available, but two-year data are used as a placeholder to provide the latest data available.
  • The terms "Hispanic or Latino" and "Hispanic" are used interchangeably in this report.

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Total Vegetable Intake (NWS-15.1)

  • Healthy People 2020 objective NWS-15.1 tracks the contribution of total vegetables to the diets of the population aged 2 years and older
    • HP2020 Baseline: In 2001-04, 0.8 cup equivalents of total vegetables per 1,000 calories was the mean daily intake by persons aged 2 years and older (age adjusted).
    • HP2020 Target: 1.1 cup equivalents per 1,000 calories (age adjusted), 90th percentile of usual vegetable intake at baseline.
  • Among persons aged 25 years and over, college graduates or above had the highest mean daily vegetable intake, 1.0 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal (age adjusted), whereas persons with less than a high school education and high school graduates had intakes of 0.8 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal (age adjusted) and persons with some college education or an AA degree had an intake of 0.9 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal (age adjusted).
  • Among racial and ethnic groups, the Mexican American population had the highest mean daily vegetable intake, 0.9 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal (age adjusted), whereas the white non-Hispanic population had a mean daily vegetable intake of 0.8 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal (age adjusted) and the black non-Hispanic population had a mean daily vegetable intake of 0.7 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal (age adjusted) in 2001-04.
  • Females had a higher mean daily vegetable intake than males (0.8 versus 0.7 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal, age adjusted in 2001-04).
  • Persons without disabilities had a higher mean daily vegetable intake than persons with disabilities (0.9 versus 0.8 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal, age adjusted, in 2001-04).
  • Persons aged 51 years and over had the highest mean daily vegetable intake, 1.0 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal (not age adjusted) in 2001-04, among broad age groups. Rates for the other age groups were:
    • 0.8 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal among persons aged 19–50 years, and
    • 0.5 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal among persons aged 2–18 years.
  • Persons born outside of the US had a higher mean daily vegetable intake than persons born in the US (0.9 versus 0.8 cup eq. per 1,000 kcal, age adjusted, in 2001-04).

Endnotes:

  • Unless otherwise stated, all comparisons described are statistically significant at the 0.05 level of significance.
  • Data are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC, NCHS. Cup equivalents were calculated using the USDA MyPyramid Equivalents Database.
  • The terms "Hispanic or Latino" and "Hispanic" are used interchangeably in this report.
  • Data (except those by disability status, education status, and age group) are age adjusted to the 2000 standard population using the age groups 2-3, 4-8, 9-13, 14-18, 19-30, 31-50, 51-70, and 71 years and over. Data by disability are adjusted using the age groups 20-30, 31-50, 51-70, and 71 years and over. Data by education status are adjusted using the age groups 25-30, 31-50, 51-70, and 71 years and over. Data by age group are not age adjusted. Age-adjusted rates are weighted sums of age-specific rates.

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