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Adult physical inactivity rates improve, but should be viewed with caution

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According to the 2013 edition of America’s Health Rankings, the prevalence of adult physical inactivity improved since 2012, 26.2 percent to 22.9 percent. Characterized as a national success, the results are encouraging, but buried within the numbers is a key disparity trend that bears concern for how it could compromise continued improvement.

The level of inactivity was inverse to level of education, meaning those most educated were most active and those least educated were also those least active. 12.3 percent of college graduates were inactive compared to 41.7 percent of those with less than high school.

A big picture concern is how childhood obesity/overweight stands to fuel this disparity. While the prevalence and trajectory has recently leveled off, nearly 1/3 of school-aged children/youth (approximately 12.5 million) are obese or overweight.

These children/youth miss more school, do not perform as well academically, and are less physically active than their normal weight peers. This puts them at significant risk for falling behind academically, and ultimately dropping out of high school. In addition, they are statistically likely to carry obesity/overweight and under-activity into adulthood.

All told, without mitigation, the current prevalence of childhood obesity/overweight jeopardizes sustained improvement to the prevalence of adult physical inactivity, for 12.5 million children and youth are statistically destined to enter adulthood with an educational deficiency that correlates to less engagement than those with more education.

The improved rates of adult inactivity ought to draw acknowledgment but not a blind eye to the next generation of adults. The good news is childhood obesity/overweight mitigation has proven to be successful so with continued effort adult rates of activity will improve.

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