Obesity and Physical Activity

Excess body weight appears to place Mexican Americans at higher risk than whites for certain diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. National data indicate that the proportion of the population that is considered overweight (defined as a body mass index > 25) has grown for both Latinos and whites over the last 20 years (National Center for Health Statistics 2000). Among Mexican Americans aged 20-74 years, combined age-adjusted data for 1988-1994 showed that 67.0% of the men and 67.8% of the women were considered overweight (vs. 59.9% of white men and 45.7% of white women) (National Center for Health Statistics 2000). The same trend has been observed in children and adolescents aged 6-17 years. Approximately 15.8% and 14.8% of Mexican American girls and boys, respectively, were found to be overweight based on combined data for 1988-1994 (compared with 11.9% and 11.8% of white girls and boys, respectively) (National Center for Health Statistics 2000). An analysis of NHANES III data found that after adjusting for age, education, percentage of energy from dietary fat, leisure-time physical activity, and smoking, waist circumference was significantly greater in United States-born Mexican men and women than in Mexican-born men and women. This study also found that United States-born Mexican women who spoke English had a significantly greater waist circumference than United Statesborn Mexican women who spoke Spanish (Sundquist and Winkleby 2000). These results point to the effects of birthplace and acculturation on the development of obesity. Latinos in general appear to report lower levels of leisure-

time physical activity than do whites, with 33.9% of Latinos and 22.3% of whites reporting sedentary lifestyles. However, a larger proportion of Latinos also reported 5 hours or more of hard occupational activity compared with whites (33.0 vs. 21.9%) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2000b).

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