skip to the main content area of this page
Missoula Measures
(406) 258-3686
Missoula County Seal and image of areas around the City.

Missoula County - Missoula Measures

Department: Missoula Measures
Missoula County Home

Missoula Measures - Physical Activity


Why this topic?

Released in 2008, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) is the first-ever publication of national guidelines for physical activity. The Physical Activity objectives for Healthy People 2020 reflect the strong state of the science supporting the health benefits of regular physical activity among youth and adults, as identified in the PAG. Regular physical activity includes participation in moderate and vigorous physical activities and muscle-strengthening activities.

More than 80 percent of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Similarly, more than 80 percent of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth. Working together to meet Healthy People 2020 targets via a multidisciplinary approach is critical to increasing the levels of physical activity and improving health in the United States.

While working out at a health club can result in improved physical function, just plain physical activity of any kind has been shown to be beneficial.  Such activities as walking to do errands, parking far from the store, mowing the lawn, playing with children, gardening, even walking the dog, are low-cost ways to stay active.

The Physical Activity objectives for 2020 highlight how physical activity levels are positively affected by:

Why is physical activity important?

Regular physical activity can improve the health and quality of life of Americans of all ages, regardless of the presence of a chronic disease or disability. Among adults and older adults, physical activity can lower the risk of:

For people who are inactive, even small increases in physical activity are associated with health benefits.

Healthy People 2020

How are we doing?

From 1996 to 2008, almost 25% of Montanans reported no physical activity in the past month.  Lower levels of education and less income are directly linked to less physical activity.  BRFSS


In 2003, BRFSS reported that about 59% of Montanans engage in some sort of moderate physical activity weekly.  BRFSS

Back to Top

The Healthy People 2020 target

  Baseline 2008 Target
Percent of adults who engage in moderate aerobic physical activity 44% 48%

The US Dept of Health and Human Services sponsors the Healthy People objectives,
 a science-based, 10-year national plan for improving the health of all Americans.

Graph showing moderate physical activity by income.

Montana BRFSS, 1998 - new data coming 2012


Graph showing moderate physical activity by age.

Montana BRFSS, 1998 - new data coming 2012

Related data

Percentages of 1998 Physical Activity in Montanans in relationship to age, education, income, race (Source: Montana BRFSS 1998) Physical Activity and Demographics.

Montana Youth Risk Behavior Trend Data - Physical Activity
Risk Behavior - % of students who . . . 1999 2001 2003 2007 2009
Watched 3 or more hours of TV on average school day 24 23 25 22 25

Montana YRBS Trend Data

Further YRBS trend data

More related data

Information for specific high schools may be available from those school principals.


Back to Top

Brief background


Barriers to exercise

Personal, social, economic, and environmental factors all play a role in physical activity levels among youth, adults, and older adults. Understanding the barriers to and facilitators of physical activity is important to ensure the effectiveness of interventions and other actions to improve levels of physical activity.

Factors POSITIVELY associated with adult physical activity include:

Factors NEGATIVELY associated with adult physical activity include:

Older adults may have additional factors that keep them from being physically active, including lack of social support, lack of transportation to facilities, fear of injury, and cost of programs.

Among children ages 4 to 12, the following factors have a positive association with physical activity:

Among adolescents ages 13 to 18, the following factors have a positive association with physical activity:

Environmental influences positively associated with physical activity among children and adolescents include:

People with disabilities may be less likely to participate in physical activity due to physical, emotional, and psychological barriers. Barriers may include the inaccessibility of facilities and the lack of staff trained in working with people with disabilities.

Healthy People 2020

Aerobics Vs. Strength Training

Approximately 15% of U.S. adults exercise vigorously. 1996 Surgeon General Report on Physical Activity and Health Vigorous physical activity (20 to 30 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise three or more days per week) strengthens the heart, lungs, and blood vessels so that they can meet the body’s demand for blood and nutrients. Aerobic exercise improves heart and lung functioning by boosting the body’s consumption of oxygen.

Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle group to exert maximum force against resistance. Strong muscles provide greater endurance, more power, and resistance to fatigue. They also help maintain correct posture. If muscles are used regularly and vigorously, they will increase in size and improve in strength. Strength training contributes to better balance, coordination, and agility. NIH


There is an inverse relationship between measures of physical activity and indices of obesity in most U.S. population studies. It appears that increased physical activity is a vital part of healthy weight management, and pairing physical activity with a reduction of dietary intake can increase and maintain loss of weight and body fat (NIH).

In 2011, approximately 27% of Missoula 3rd graders were overweight or obese; 12% were obese.   In 2010,  approximately 38% of Montana adults were overweight or obese; 2% were obese.  BRFSS

Reports of BMI in 3rd grade in Missoula schools: 2009, 2010, 2011

From: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report August 2008:

Though many promising policies have emerged to promote physical activity and good nutrition in communities, the report concludes that they are not being adopted or implemented at levels needed to turn around this health crisis.

“Despite widespread acknowledgement that obesity is endangering the health of millions of Americans, the country is still failing to respond clearly or comprehensively. We must work together, governments, schools and communities, to improve nutrition and increase physical activity for all ages. We must ensure that strong policies are implemented and enforced in every state, not only to help reverse existing obesity rates, but to prevent obesity among our nation’s children—and generations to come.”  Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., RWJF president and C.E.O.

Back to Top

Exercise & Youth

Regular physical activity improves strength, builds lean muscle, and decreases body fat. It also builds stronger bones, especially important for young women who have a family history of osteoporosis.


There is a strong inverse relationship between levels of education and no leisure time PA. According to BRFSS, 2000, of those reporting no leisure time physical activity:

Major conclusions of the Surgeon General's Report 1996:

People of all ages, both male and female, benefit from regular physical activity.

Significant health benefits can be obtained by including a moderate amount of physical activity (e.g., 30 minutes of brisk walking or raking leaves, 15 minutes of running, or 45 minutes of playing volleyball) on most, if not all, days of the week.

 Through a modest increase in daily activity, most Americans can improve their health and quality of life.

Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity. People who can maintain a regular regimen of activity that is of longer duration or of more vigorous intensity are likely to derive greater benefit.

Physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general, and of coronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, and diabetes mellitus in particular. Physical activity also improves mental health and is important for the health of muscles, bones, and joints.

More than 60 percent of American adults are not regularly physically active. In fact, 25 percent of all adults are not active at all.

Nearly half of American youths 12-21 years of age are not vigorously active on a regular basis. Moreover, physical activity declines dramatically during adolescence.
Daily enrollment in physical education classes has declined among high school students from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 1995.



Related websites

Missoula's Bicycle & Pedestrian Program

National BRFSS Trends Data

Missoulians on Bikes

Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General

The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation

Links to health data, statistics and information from many national sources.

Healthy People 2020 - extensive background on national public health status of this topic and many others, Healthy People 2010


public health logo

Back to Top

Site Navigation

Health Department Divisions

 Missoula Measures

Search Health Sites