Q&A: Physical Activity in Adults Aged 18 Years and Over: United States, 2020

Questions for Nazik Elgaddal, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Physical Activity in Adults Aged 18 Years and Over: United States, 2020.”

Q: Why did you decide to do a report on physical activity among U.S. adults?

NE: Meeting the physical activity guidelines is one of the Healthy People 2030 leading health indicators.  Understanding who does and does not meet these guidelines is important for health care providers and policymakers.


Q: How did the data vary by gender, race, and income level?

NE: There are differences in who meets the guidelines by gender, race and Hispanic origin, and poverty level.  Men are more likely than women to meet both physical activity guidelines across all age groups. Hispanic men were less likely than other race and Hispanic origin groups among men to meet the guidelines, and non-Hispanic White women were more likely than other female groups. The percentage of people meeting the guidelines increased as family income levels increased.


Q: Do you have comparative trend data that goes further back than 2020?

NE: Starting in January 2019, a redesigned NHIS questionnaire with new content and structure was implemented. Physical activity questions are in the rotating core section every other year starting in 2020. Estimates for years prior to 2019 are available in Health, US https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/2019/025-508.pdf and Healthy People https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/data-search/Search-the-Data?nid=5072.


Q: How was this data collected?

NE: Data from the 2020 NHIS were used for this analysis. Interviews are typically conducted in respondents’ homes, but follow-ups to complete interviews may be conducted over the telephone. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection procedures in 2020 were disrupted: From April through June 2020, all interviews were conducted by telephone only, and from July through December 2020, interviews were attempted by telephone first, with follow-ups to complete interviews by personal visit.


Q: What is the main takeaway message here?

NE: In 2020, only about one-quarter of adults fully met the Federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. 

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