Interactions between race/ethnicity and gender on physical activity among US high school students: Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2011–2017

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Background/purpose: Most adolescents do not meet the recommended amount of physical activity. Female, Black, and Hispanic students have significantly less physical activity than White male students. Physical activity of Asian or Multiple Race students have not been reported. The purpose of this research is to estimate differences in physical activity by race/ethnicity and gender among US high school students to examine whether Black Hispanic, Asian and multiple race female students and 11th grade and 12th grade female students have significantly lower physical activity levels. Design/methods: This study is a secondary analysis of cross-sectional data from the high school Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a biennial, nationally representative survey of US high school students. Four waves of data were pooled from 2011 to 2017 YRBS (N = 59,397). Dependent variables were the number of active days per week a student was physically active, and whether the student was physically active for zero, 5 or more, or 7 days per week. Data were analyzed using R software. Results: Asian students and students in grade 12 had the fewest number of physically active days per week. Female students were less physically active than male students. Significant negative interactions were measured in female gender by race/ethnicity (Black or Hispanic) and female gender by grade levels for the number of physically active days per week and for zero physically active days per week. The gender disparity in physical activity was significantly more pronounced among Black and Hispanic students. The reduction in physical activity by grade level was also significantly greater among female students. Discussion: Efforts to increase physical activity are especially needed among Asian, Black, and Hispanic, and upper-grade female students. Practical implications: Further research is needed to identify explanations and solutions for the significantly lower physical activity among Asians, female minority students, and students in upper grades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-108
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of pediatric nursing
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics


  • Child and adolescent health
  • Methods-quantitative
  • Physical activity
  • Racial/ethnic disparities
  • Social determinants of health


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