Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 15–23 | Cite as

Correlates of physical activity among U.S. Young adults, 18 to 30 years of age, from NHANES III

  • Marsha Dowda
  • Barbara E. Ainsworth
  • Cheryl L. Addy
  • Ruth Saunders
  • William Riner


Young adults are often in periods of transition, and lifestyle changes such as a decline in physical activity can occur during this period. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships between demographic, biologic, lifestyle, social support index, environmental factors, and physical activity in young adults. The participants were 4,152 young adults from 18 to 30 years of age enrolled in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). A moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) score was calculated from responses to nine activities and up to four activities not previously listed. Multiple regression analyses were used to assess the relationship between MVPA and independent variables separately for men and women. Non- Hispanic Blacks were more active than non-Hispanic White or Mexican American men, whereas, among women, non-Hispanic Whites were more active. Education, social support index, and trying to lose weight were positively associated with MVPA, whereas being married was inversely related in both men and women. Among women, those who were unemployed, in better health, had smaller families, had lower body mass indexes (BMIs), and were not from the South had higher MVPA. Men who were in school during the past 12 months were more active than those who were not in school. The results from this study suggest that demographic and social factors are important determinants of physical activity in young adults and should be considered when planning interventions.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. (1).
    Baranowski T, Cullen KW, Basen-Engquist K, et al.: Transitions out of high school: Time of increased cancer risk?Preventive Medicine. 1997,26:694–703.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. (2).
    Cullen KW, Koehly LM, Anderson C, et al.: Gender differences in chronic disease risk behaviors through the transition out of high school.American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 1999,17:1–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. (3).
    Baranowski T, Koehly L, Cullen K, et al.: Ethnic differences in cancer risk behaviors through the transition out of high school.Ethnicity & Disease. 1999,9:94–103.Google Scholar
  4. (4).
    Pate RR, Pratt M, Blair SN, et al.: Physical activity and public health: A recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine.Journal of the American Medical Association. 1995,273:402–407.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. (5).
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1996.Google Scholar
  6. (6).
    Kann L, Kinchen SA, Williams BI, et al.: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 1999.MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Surveillance Summaries, 2000, 49(SS05): 1–96.Google Scholar
  7. (7).
    Anderssen N, Jacobs DR, Sidney S, et al.: Change and secular trends in physical activity patterns in young adults: A seven-year longitudinal follow-up in the coronary artery risk development in young adults study (CARDIA).American Journal of Epidemiology. 1996,143:351–362.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. (8).
    Van Mechelen W, Twisk JWR, Post GB, Snel J, Kemper HCG: Physical activity of young people: The Amsterdam longitudinal growth and health study.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2000,32:1610–1616.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. (9).
    Mokdad AH, Serdula MK, Dietz WH, et al.: The spread of the obesity epidemic in the United States, 1991–1998.Journal of the American Medical Association. 1999,282:1519–1522.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. (10).
    Crespo CJ, Keteyian SJ, Heath GW, Sempos CT: Leisure-time physical activity among US adults: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.Archives of Internal Medicine. 1996,156:93–98.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. (11).
    King AC, Blair SN, Bild DE, et al.: Determinants of physical activity and interventions in adults.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1992,24:S221-S236.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. (12).
    Sallis JF, Owen N:Physical Activity and Behavioral Medicine. Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage, 1999.Google Scholar
  13. (13).
    Chinn DJ, White M, Harland J, Drinkwater C, Raybould S: Barriers to physical activity and socioeconomic position: Implications for health promotion.Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 1999,53:91–192.Google Scholar
  14. (14).
    King AC, Kiernan M, Ahn DK, Wilcox S: The effects of marital transition on changes in physical activity: Results from a 10-year community study.Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 1998,20:64–69.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. (15).
    Ford ES, Ahluwalia IB, Galuska DA: Social relationships and cardiovascular disease risk factors: Findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.Preventive Medicine. 2000,30:83–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. (16).
    Bild DE, Jacobs DR, Sidney S, et al.: Physical activity in young black and white women: The CARDIA Study.Annals of Epidemiology. 1993,3:636–644.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. (17).
    Yang X, Telama R, Leino M, Viikari J: Factors explaining the physical activity of young adults: The importance of early socialization.Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 1999,9:120–127.Google Scholar
  18. (18).
    Allison KR, Adlaf EM, Ialomiteanu A, Rehm J: Predictors of health risk behaviors among young adults: Analysis of the National Population Health Survey.Canadian Journal of Public Health. 1999,90:85–89.Google Scholar
  19. (19).
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics:NHANES III Reference Manuals and Reports (CD-ROM). Hyattsville, MD, 1996.Google Scholar
  20. (20).
    Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Leon AS, et al.: Compendium of physical activities: Classification of energy costs of human physical activities.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1993,25:71–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. (21).
    Shah BV, Barnwell BG, Bieler GS:SUDAAN User's Manual, Release 75. Research Triangle Park, NC: Research Triangle Institute, 1997.Google Scholar
  22. (22).
    Johnson CA, Corrigan SA, Dubbert PM, Gramling SE: Perceived barriers to exercise and weight control practices in community women.Women & Health. 1990,16:177–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. (23).
    Ransdell LB, Wells CL: Physical activity in urban white, African- American and Mexican-American women.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1998,30:1608–1615.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. (24).
    Ainsworth BE, Irwin ML, Addy CL, Whitt MC, Stolarczyk LM: Moderate physical activity patterns of minority women: The cross-cultural activity participation study.Journal of Women's Health & Gender Based Medicine. 1999,8:805–813.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. (25).
    Ball K, Crawford D, Owen N: Too fat to exercise? Obesity as a barrier to physical activity.Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2000,3:331–333.Google Scholar
  26. (26).
    Zakarian JM, Melbourne HF, Hofstetter CR, Sallis JF, Keating KJ: Correlates of vigorous exercise in a predominantly low SES and minority high school population.Preventive Medicine. 1994,23:314–324.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. (27).
    Pate RR, Heath GW, Dowda M, Trost SG: Associations between physical activity and other health behaviors in a representative sample of US adolescents.American Journal of Public Health. 1996,86:1577–1581.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. (28).
    Sallis JF: Age-related decline in physical activity: A synthesis of human and animal studies.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2000,32:1598–1600.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. (29).
    Trost SG, Pate RR, Sallis JF, et al.: Age and gender differences in objectively measured physical activity in youth.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2002,34:350–355.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. (30).
    Lindström M, Hanson BS, Östergren P-O: Socioeconomic differences in leisure-time physical activity: The role of social participation and social capital in shaping health related behavior.Social Science & Medicine. 2001,52:441–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. (31).
    Sallis JF, Hovell MF, Hofstetter CR: Predictors of adoption and maintenance of vigorous physical activity in men and women.Preventive Medicine. 1992,21:237–251.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. (32).
    Leslie E, Owen N, Salmon J, et al.: Insufficiently active Australian college students: Perceived personal, social, and environmental influences.Preventive Medicine. 1999,28:20–27.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. (33).
    Ståhl T, Rütten A, Nutbeam D, et al.: The importance of the social environment for physically active lifestyle — results from an international study.Social Science and Medicine. 2001,52:1–10.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. (34).
    Crespo CJ, Smit E, Carter-Pokras O, Andersen R: Acculturation and leisure-time physical inactivity in Mexican American Adults: Results from NHANES III, 1988–1994.American Journal of Public Health. 2001,91:1254–1257.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. (35).
    Ainsworth BE: Issues in the assessment of physical activity in women.Research Quarterly in Exercise and Sport. 2000,71(Suppl.):37–42.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marsha Dowda
    • 1
  • Barbara E. Ainsworth
    • 2
  • Cheryl L. Addy
    • 3
  • Ruth Saunders
    • 4
  • William Riner
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Exercise Science Norman J. Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaColumbia
  2. 2.Department of Exercise Science, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Prevention Research Center Norman J. Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Norman J. Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior Norman J. Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaUSA
  5. 5.Department of Exercise Science, Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health and John Morrison White ClinicUniversity of South CarolinaUSA

Personalised recommendations