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Deanna M. Hoelscher, Cristina Barroso, Andrew Springer, Brian Castrucci and Steven H. Kelder


Few studies have compared physical activity (PA) and sedentary activity (SA) by grade and ethnicity, specifically including elementary school students. A cross-sectional probability-based design was used to provide data by ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, and White/Other), gender, and grade (4th, 8th, and 11th) from 2000 to 2002.


Two validated questionnaires (elementary and secondary) assessed self-reported PA and SA. Point-prevalence estimates and 95% confidence intervals were computed.


Over 70% of students reported vigorous PA on ≥3 days/week, but <50% participated in daily physical education. A significant percentage (30% to 50%) of students reported ≥3 hours per day in SA. Fourth-grade boys and girls reported equal PA; however, 8th and 11th grade girls reported lowered vigorous PA. African American 8th- and 11th-grade boys reported the highest PA, but African American children also reported the highest prevalence of SA.


Findings from this study highlight the disparities in physical and sedentary activities by gender, grade, and race/ethnicity, and the need to address these differences with programs and policy. In general, grade level and gender differences were more striking and consistent than racial/ethnic differences.