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Increasing Inequality in Physical Activity Among Minnesota Secondary Schools, 2001–2010

Toben F. Nelson, Richard F. MacLehose, Cynthia Davey, Peter Rode, and Marilyn S. Nanney

Background: Two Healthy People 2020 goals are to increase physical activity (PA) and to reduce disparities in PA. We explored whether PA at the school level changed over time in Minnesota schools and whether differences existed by demographic and socioeconomic factors. Methods: We examine self-reported PA (n = 276,089 students; N = 276 schools) for 2001–2010 from the Minnesota Student Survey linked to school demographic data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Rural–Urban Commuting Area Codes. We conducted analyses at the school level using multivariable linear regression with cluster-robust recommendation errors. Results: Overall, students who met PA recommendations increased from 59.8% in 2001 to 66.3% in 2010 (P < .001). Large gains in PA occurred at schools with fewer racial/ethnic minority students (0%–60.1% in 2001 to 67.5% in 2010, P < .001), whereas gains in PA were comparatively small at schools with a high proportion of racial/ethnic minority students in 2001 (30%–59.2% in 2001 to 62.7% in 2010). Conclusions: We found increasing inequalities in school-level PA by racial/ethnic characteristics of their schools and communities among secondary school students. Future research should monitor patterns of PA over time and explore mechanisms for patterns of inequality.

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Vigorous Physical Activity Among College Students in the United States

Toben F. Nelson, Steven L. Gortmaker, S. V. Subramanian, and Henry Wechsler


Vigorous physical activity (VPA) declines from adolescence into adulthood and social disparities in VPA exist. Physical activity is understudied in the college setting.


VPA during high school and college was examined among 10,437 students attending 119 four-year colleges using gender-stratified logistic regression analyses.


Fewer students engaged in VPA in college compared with high school (males 74% to 52%; females 68% to 44%). Athletics was associated with VPA, but 51% participated in high school and 15% in college. Among females, African Americans, Asians, and students of lower socioeconomic position (SEP) were less likely to engage in VPA in college, adjusting for high school VPA. Among males, Asians and older students were less likely to engage in VPA.


VPA declines from high school to college. Athletic participation is a determinant of VPA, but few participate in collegiate athletics. Social disparities in VPA emerge in college, an important setting for promoting VPA and addressing health disparities. Regular physical activity is an important contributor to human health. It is positively associated with longevity and may prevent or help manage diabetes, metabolic syndrome, overweight, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer.1-8 Among children and adolescents, lack of physical activity is associated with higher body mass index.9-10 Physical activity is also associated with positive mood, self-esteem, and decreased anxiety.11-14

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Are Correlates of Physical Activity in Adolescents Similar Across Ethnicity/Race and Sex: Implications for Interventions

Jonathan M. Miller, Mark A. Pereira, Julian Wolfson, Melissa N. Laska, Toben F. Nelson, and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

Background: This study tested for differences in personal, social, and environmental correlates of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) across ethnicity/race in male and female adolescents. Methods: Self-reported MVPA and 47 potential correlates of MVPA were measured in an ethnically/racially diverse cross-sectional sample of adolescents, in Minnesota, who participated in EAT-2010 (Eating and Activity in Teens). Interactions of potential correlates with ethnicity/race on MVPA were tested in linear hierarchical regression models in boys and girls. Results: Boys reported 1.7 more weekly hours of MVPA than girls. White adolescents reported 1.1 to 2.1 more weekly hours of MVPA than nonwhite adolescents. Among girls, neighborhood road connectivity was negatively correlated with MVPA among Hispanic and Asian participants. Among boys, sports participation was positively correlated with MVPA among all ethnicities/races, except Asians. Home media equipment was positively correlated with MVPA among Hispanic boys, but negatively correlated among white boys. Conclusions: A few correlates of physical activity among adolescents differed intersectionally by ethnicity/race and sex. Sports participation and home media equipment may have differing impacts on physical activity across ethnicities and races in boys, whereas neighborhood features like road connectivity may have differing impacts on physical activity across ethnicities and races in girls.