Missoula County

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Why This Measure?

Evidence of the many benefits of regular physical activity continues to mount. Regular physical exercise can help to prevent and manage coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and mental health problems. Physical activity has also has been associated with lower rates of colon cancer and stroke, and it may help reduce back injuries.

On average, physically active people outlive those who are inactive. Regular physical activity can also help older adults maintain their functional independence, and it can enhance the quality of life for people of all ages.

Like almost all other indictors, physical activity is tied to education and socioeconomic factors. The less education and income someone has, the less physical activity they take part in.

Key Indicator- Missoula Vital Sign

Levels of Physical Activity for Montanans

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Source: Montana BRFSS, 1998

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

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How are we doing?

Worse. In 1998 3 out of 4 Montanans reported some physical activity, lower than 10 years ago. The percent engaging in regular, higher level physical activity is much less. In 1998, only 22% of Montana adults reported engaging in regular and sustained physical activity (five or more times a week, 30 minutes or more a session, regardless of intensity) and 13% engaged in vigorous physical activity (three or more times a week, 30 minutes or more a session). Less education and income is directly linked to less physical activity.

Missoula 1997 Survey

The 1997 Missoula Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (Missoula BRFSS) showed the following:

72% reported some physical activity in the past month

Missoulians who engage in physical fitness activity prefer to:

Walk 23.8%

Take an aerobics class 5.0%

Exercise at home 4.2%

Other 4.2%

Lift weights 3.9%

Run 3.7%

Walking is also a measure of a healthy community. People who walk have opportunities to bump into their neighbors and to notice things they would miss while driving.

Barriers to Exercise

Barriers to moderate to vigorous physical activity include lack of time, family responsibilities, perceptions of cost, lack of access to facilities, fear of injury, actual injury or other health problems, and boredom with exercise routines. The American way of life, with its more sedentary jobs, and time spent in front of computers and the television, contributes to the worsening trend.

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 a weight loss program, and pairing physical activity with a reduction of dietary intake can increase and maintain loss of weight and body fat (NIH).

Approximately 14% of children and 12% of adolescents are overweight. Among adults, approximately 33% of men and 36% of women are overweight, an increase of 8% from 1988 to 1994 (MMWR, March 7, 1997, Vol. 46, No. 9).

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.

Nearly half of American youth from 12 to 21 years of age are not vigorously active on a regular basis, and physical activity declines dramatically during adolescence. Daily enrollment in physical education classes among high school students declined from 42% in 1991 to 25% in 1995 (1996 Surgeon General Report on Physical Activity and Health).



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