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Facts & Statistics

Physical Activity

  • Only one in three children are physically active every day.1
  • Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day;2 only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week.3
  • Only 35 – 44% of adults 75 years or older are physically active, and 28-34% of adults ages 65-74 are physically active.4
  • More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and more than 80% of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth.5
  • In 2013, research found adults in the following states to be most likely to report exercising 3 or more days a week for at least 30 minutes: Vermont (65.3%), Hawaii (62.2%), Montana (60.1%), Alaska (60.1%). The least likely were Delaware (46.5%), West Virginia (47.1%) and Alabama (47.5%). The national average for regular exercise is 51.6%.6
  • Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen (e.g., TV, videogames, computer).7
  • Nationwide, 25.6% of persons with a disability reported being physically inactive during a usual week, compared to 12.8% of those without a disability.3
  • Only about one in five homes have parks within a half-mile, and about the same number have a fitness or recreation center within that distance.5
  • Only 6 states (Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York and Vermont) require physical education in every grade, K-12.22
  • 28.0% of Americans, or 80.2 million people, aged six and older are physically inactive.23
  • Nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for 3 or more hours on an average school day.24


  • Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat.2
  • Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.2
  • About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.8
  • Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200mg per day on could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.8
  • Food available for consumption increased in all major food categories from 1970 to 2008. Average daily calories per person in the marketplace increased approximately 600 calories.2
  • Since the 1970s, the number of fast food restaurants has more than doubled.2
  • More than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in food deserts – areas that are more than a mile away from a supermarket.9
  • In 2008, an estimated 49.1 million people, including 16.7 million children, experienced food insecurity (limited availability to safe and nutritionally adequate foods) multiple times throughout the year.10
  • In 2013, residents of the following states were most likely to report eating at least five servings of vegetables four or more days per week: Vermont (68.7%), Montana (63.0%) and Washington (61.8%). The least likely were Oklahoma (52.3%), Louisiana (53.3%) and Missouri (53.8%). The national average for regular produce consumption is 57.7%.6
  • Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of total daily calories for 2–18 year olds and half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.27
  • US adults consume an average of 3,400 mg/day [of sodium], well above the current federal guideline of less than 2,300 mg daily.28
  • Food safety awareness goes hand-in-hand with nutrition education. In the United States, food-borne agents affect 1 out of 6 individuals and cause approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year.29
  • US per capita consumption of total fat increased from approximately 57 pounds in 1980 to 78 pounds in 2009 with the highest consumption being 85 pounds in 2005.30
  • The US percentage of food-insecure households, those with limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, rose from 11% to 15% between 2005 and 2009.31


  • Data from 2009-2010 indicates that over 78 million U.S. adults and about 12.5 million (16.9%) children and adolescents are obese.11
  • Recent reports project that by 2030, half of all adults (115 million adults) in the United States will be obese.12
  • Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.1314
  • For children with disabilities, obesity rates are approximately 38% higher than for children without disabilities. It gets worse for the adult population where obesity rates for adults with disabilities are approximately 57% higher than for adults without disabilities.15
  • Obesity Then and Now2
    • Prevalence of obesity for children ages 2 to 5 years – doubled
      • Early 1970s: 5%
      • 2007-08: 10%
    • Prevalence of obesity for children ages 6 to 11 years – quadrupled
      • Early 1970s: 4%
      • 2007-08: 20%
    • Prevalence of obesity for children ages 12 to 19 years – tripled
      • Early 1970s: 6%
      • 2007-08: 18%
    • Percentage of obese adults – doubled
      • Early 1970s: 15%
      • 2007-08: 34%
    • States with an adult obesity prevalence rate of more than 25%:
      • Early 1970s: Zero
      • 2007-08: 32
  • Nearly 45% of children living in poverty are overweight or obese compared with 22% of children living in households with incomes four times the poverty level.16
  • Almost 40% of Black and Latino youth ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese compared with only 29% of White youth.16
  • Obesity among children in the United States has remained flat - at around 17% - in 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.25
  • Between 2003 and 2012, obesity among children between 2 and 5 years of age has declined from 14% to 8% - a 43% decrease in just under a decade.25
  • Obesity rates in children 6 to 11 years old have decreased from 18.8% in 2003-2004 to 17.7% in 2011-2012; obesity rates for children 12 to 19 years old have increased from 17.4% to 20.5% in the same time period.25

Human and Financial Costs of Obesity

  • Obesity-related illness, including chronic disease, disability, and death, is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.17
  • Projections estimate that by 2018, obesity will cost the U.S. 21 percent of our total healthcare costs - $344 billion annually.18
  • Those who are obese have medical costs that are $1,429 more than those of normal weight on average (roughly 42% higher).19
  • The annual cost of being overweight is $524 for women and $432 for men; annual costs for being obese are even higher: $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men.20
  • Obesity is also a growing threat to national security – a surprising 27% of young Americans are too overweight to serve in our military. Approximately 15,000 potential recruits fail their physicals every year because they are unfit.21
  • The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering. In 2008 dollars, these costs totaled about $147 billion.26

1 National Association for Sport and Physical Education.The Fitness Equation: Physical Activity + Balanced Diet = Fit Kids.Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1999.

2 U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Available at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm.

3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/healthy_people/hp2010.htm.

4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/brfss/.

5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2020. Available at: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/default.aspx.

6Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Jan. 2-Dec. 29, 2013. Available at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/167645/vermont-no-frequent-exercise-produce-consumption.aspx.

7 Rideout, Victoria J., Foehr, Ulla G., and Roberts, Donald F. Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. Rep. Menlo Park: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010.

8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Where's the Sodium? Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/VitalSigns/pdf/2012-02-vitalsigns.pdf.

9 U.S. Department of Agriculture. Creating Access to Healthy, Affordable Food. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-choices-health/food-access/

10 Nord, Mark, Andrews, Margaret, and Carlson, Steven. Household Food Security in the United States, 2008. Rep. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2009.

11 Ogden, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Kit, B.K., Flegal, K.M. Prevalence of Obesity in the United States, 2009-2010. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, January 2012; Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf.

12 Wang, Y Claire, McPherson, Klim, Marsh, Tim, Gortmaker, Steven L., Brown, Martin. Health and Economic Burden of the Projected Obesity Trends in the USA and the UK. The Lancet; 2011.

13 Hedley, A.A., Ogden, C.L., Johnson, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Curtin, L.R., and Flegal, K.M. Overweight and Obesity Among US Children, Adolescents, and Adults, 1999-2002. Journal of the American Medical Association; 2004.

14 Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M.D., Kuczmarski, R.J., and Johnson, C.L. Overweight and Obesity in the United States: Prevalence and Trends, 1960-1994. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders; 1998.

15 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 2003-2008. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/documents/obesityfactsheet2010.pdf.

16 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. F As In Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future. 2010. Available at: http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/20100629fasinfatmainreport.pdf.

17 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation. Report Brief, May 8, 2012. Available at: http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2012/Accelerating-Progress-in-Obesity-Prevention.aspx.

18 National Association for Sport and Physical Education. 2010 Shape of the Nation Report. Available at: http://www.shapeamerica.org/advocacy/son/upload/Shape-of-the-Nation-2010-Final.pdf.

19 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Adult Obesity. 2010. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/AdultObesity/.

20 Dor, Avi, Christine Ferguson, Casey Langwith, and Ellen Tan. A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States. Washington, DC: The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services Department of Health Policy; 2010.

21 American Heart Association. Teaching America's Kids About A Healthy Lifestyle. 2010. Available at: http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@adv/documents/downloadable/ucm_301728.pdf.

22 National Association for Sport and Physical Education/American Heart Association. 2012 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA. Available at: http://www.shapeamerica.org/advocacy/son/2012/upload/2012-Shape-of-Nation-full-report-web.pdf.

23 Physical Activity Council. 2014 Participation Report. Available at: http://www.physicalactivitycouncil.com/PDFs/current.pdf.

24 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2011]. MMWR 2012;61(No. SS-66104):[1-168]). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6104a1.htm.

25 Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD; Margaret D. Carroll, MSPH; Brian K. Kit, MD, MPH; Katherine M. Flegal, PhD. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. February 26, 2014; Vol 311, No. 8. Available at: http://www.jamanetwork.com/.

26 Eric A. Finkelstein, Justin G. Trogdon, Joel W. Cohen and William Dietz. Annual Medical Spending Attributable to Obesity: Payer- and Service-Specific Estimates. Health Affairs, 28, no.5 (2009):w822-w831 (published online July 27, 2009; 10.1377/hlthaff.28.5.w822). Available at: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/5/w822.full.pdf+html?sid=98ee0a7a-07da-4e7a-8545-a1930789d9c6.

27 Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 10, Pages 1477-1484, October 2010. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20869486.

28 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidence. Report Brief, May 14, 2014.

29 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Improving Food Safety Through a One Health Approach. Workshop Summary, September 10, 2012.

30 United States Census Bureau. The 2012 Statistical Abstract. Health & Nutrition: Food Consumption and Nutrition. Table 217. Per Capita Consumption of Major Food Commodities: 1980 to 2009.

31 United States Census Bureau. The 2012 Statistical Abstract. Health & Nutrition: Food Consumption and Nutrition. Table 214. Households and Persons Having Problems with Access to Food: 2005 to 2009. Available at: https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed/health-nutrition.html.


Content created by President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition
Content last reviewed on January 26, 2017
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