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Equity in Physical Activity: A Misguided Goal

Abstract

Rates of participation in physical activity are often not the same between groups in a given demographic category. These differences have been termed ‘inequities,’ and major health organizations are advocating large-scale initiatives to create ‘equity’ in physical activity. The aim of this paper is to explain why equity in physical activity is a misguided goal. Equity is a misguided goal because it ignores absolute rates of physical activity (i.e., it is a metric of how one group compares with another), and because it is an automated goal that ignores sizes of ‘gaps’ between groups. Moreover, equity initiatives incorrectly assume that groups with relatively high physical activity rates are always at lower health risk; that non-targeted groups will remain static in their levels of physical activity; that individuals are part of only one demographic category; that complete equity can be achieved; that the causal relationship between equity initiatives and their desired outcome can be known; and that differences in physical activity rates between groups are due to differences in ‘opportunity.’ Due to these issues, health organizations should abandon the goal of equity. Instead, they should aim to increase physical activity in groups that are most sedentary and/or at greatest health risk to a level that is as high as is feasible and possible, irrespective of how that new level compares with other groups. This goal is objective and not based on the misguided premises that underpin the current equity narrative.

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Correspondence to James L. Nuzzo.

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James Nuzzo declares he has no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this article.

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Nuzzo, J.L. Equity in Physical Activity: A Misguided Goal. Sports Med 49, 501–507 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-0959-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-0959-4