POPULATIONS IN GREATEST NEED

African American and
Hispanic youth

Members of these groups are the least likely to be physically active and the most likely to be active a minimum of 60 minutes just one day per week or less.[14] African American youth are less active than Hispanic youth, who are less active than white youth.[15] 

Girls

Across all races and ethnicities, girls are less likely to be active than boys.16 The gender gap emerges by age nine.[17] Among girls, African Americans and Asian Americans are most sedentary, with 49.5 percent and 44.1 percent of them, respectively, engaging in physical activity no more than two times a week (followed by Hispanic girls at 41.6 percent and white girls at 37.2 percent).[18] Girls’ lower levels of physical activity may be due to lacking athletic skills and confidence in ability, both of which are prerequisites for taking advantage of sports opportunities that have emerged since Title IX’s passage in the early 1970s.[19]

American Indian and
Alaska Native youth

The federal government does not measure the physical activity levels of these groups, but a 2003 study found that 85 percent of youth from the Anishinaabe Nation (ages five to 18) did not meet the standards set forth in the Presidential Fitness Test, a health-related test that measures flexibility, aerobic endurance, agility and strength, abdominal strength, and upper-body strength. Moreover, 63 percent of the participants in the study were at risk for being overweight or were currently overweight, which was two to three times the estimate for the general population.[20] In fact, at 21 percent, American Indian and Alaska Native youth have the highest obesity rates among youth, occurring as young as two to four years old.[21] As adults, rates of diabetes among Native Americans are 177 percent higher than the rest of the US population.[22] 

Children with physical and developmental disabilities

Youth with disabilities are 4.5 times less active than other youth.[23] Another study found that one-third of youth with disabilities do not fully participate in recess activities, two-thirds do not fully participate in playground games, and more than half don’t participate in any organized school sport.[24] Obesity rates among youth with disabilities are 38 percent higher than for children without disabilities,[25] with youth who are on the autism spectrum or who have Down syndrome among the most at risk, at nearly two to three times the rate of youth without disabilities.[26] African American and Hispanic children with disabilities also have disproportionately high obesity rates as compared to white youth with disabilities.[27] 

Low-income families

Broadly defined to include both organized and casual play, sport participation among youth living in households with the lowest incomes ($25,000 or less) is about half that of youth from wealthier homes ($100,000 or more): 16 percent versus 30 percent.[28] 

Youth in the South

They are more likely than those living elsewhere in the United States to not be physically active for at least 60 minutes once per week. In fact, of the 18 states that report middle school data, the two with the highest rates of inactivity are South Carolina and Georgia. At the high school level, 11 southern states have among the lowest levels of activity.[29] 

LEADING THE WAY

Canada has developed a curriculum that is applicable for youth with disabilities, and which could serve as a model for the United States. The Canadian Paralympic Fundamentals Physical Literacy Resource teaches the Active Start and FUNdamentals Stages of Long-Term Athletic Development, which also addresses physical literacy by teaching motor skills.[56] The resource includes theory, tips, and activities and lists specific adaptations suitable for children with mobility limitations and aids, visual and hearing impairments, and for those who are in wheelchairs.[57] Nearly 500 organizations in nine countries have registered to use the curriculum.[58]

England has also developed programs specific to youth with disabilities. TOP Sportsability is a partnership between the Youth Sport Trust and the English national sport governing bodies that aims to bridge the divide between individuals with and without disabilities, while providing an introduction to a variety of physical activity and sport options.[59] The Aspen Institute’s global scan reveals that reaching youth with disabilities was the most common type of outreach to marginalized communities, though Wales successfully implemented a program that targets young people, 16 and older, who are homeless or otherwise “socially excluded.”[60]