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For Immediate Release:
November 21, 2000
For more information contact:
DHS Communications
(213) 240-8144 Pager: (213) 990-7107

County Health Department Study Finds Most Residents Fail to Meet Suggested Physical Activity Guidelines
County's Sedentary Fall Across Racial/Ethnic/Gender Lines

LOS ANGELES - Contradicting images of an active - even fitness-crazed - lifestyle, a new study finds more than one-half of Los Angeles County residents fail to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. The survey, sponsored by the County's Department of Health Services (DHS), shows that 41% of Los Angeles County residents are completely sedentary and another 20% do not perform enough physical activity each week to meet the guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Physical activity plays a key role in preventing overweight and disease and improving overall health," said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer. "Health conditions caused by inactivity, such as obesity and overweight, and are playing a growing role in the burden of disease facing our County."

Engaging in physical activity has long been recognized as a key component for good health and in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, the nation's leading cause of death, as well as with the prevention of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Research also demonstrates that participating in various forms of physical activity is associated with positive mental health, reduced anxiety and depression, a more positive perception of one's health and improved quality of life. In Los Angeles County, sedentary respondents reported fair or poor health more than twice as often as those who met the physical activity guidelines (30% vs. 13%).

Respondents were asked about both leisure-time and work-related physical activity. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) reported that their work involved mostly sitting or standing; only 11% reported their work was physically demanding. Other findings include:

· Women were more likely to be sedentary (49%) than men (33%); these differences were consistent across the various ethnic/racial groups

· The percent sedentary increased with age through 64 years

· Latinos (46%) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (41%) were more likely to be inactive than whites (37%) and African-Americans (40%)

· Physical environments can greatly influence physical activity; variations across the County are influenced in part to the disparities in recreational facilities and perceptions of neighborhood safety as well as demographics. "Not only our physical environment, but our social and cultural environments promote inactivity," said Antronette Yancey, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The CDC recommends that adults engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity on, preferably, a daily basis. The activity can be expended in a single session or in accumulated bouts of time, with each lasting at least 8 - 10 minutes.

"Our report is not unusual," said Dr. Fielding. "More than one-half of Americans do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. If we want to arrest this growing public health problem our health promotion efforts must include supporting a lifestyle that incorporates regular physical activity from as early as pre-school."

Public Health, a division of DHS, released the figures today - part of an in-depth survey examining health-related issues for adults and children. The Los Angeles County Health Survey was repeated in September 1999 through April 2000; the biennial survey was first conducted in 1997.

The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a population-based telephone survey of approximately 8,000 households in the County, examining health and health-related issues for adults and children. Field Research Corporation conducted the survey for DHS with support from the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.

Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health and comprises more than 3,600 employees with an annual budget exceeding $430 million.