Less Than ¼ of Americans Exercise Enough
Americans don’t have the greatest reputation for being fit. Even in a country where gyms, athletic wear, and sneakers all do huge, booming business, it seems, for many people, these purchases are just for show. And now there is more evidence of just how sedentary our society has become, as new research shows yet again that the vast majority of United States residents don’t do nearly enough physical activity.
The study, which took place at the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, found that more than 75% of Americans are failing to meet even the minimum of federal recommendations for exercise.1 These results are based on a survey of more than 155,000 men and women living across the U.S. The subjects were all between the ages of 18 and 64 and answered their questionnaires at some point from 2010 through 2015.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revised their physical activity guidelines to recommend at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise, or some combination of the two. In addition, they added a strength-training component, recommending at least two sessions per week. The current research was conducted to assess how well the general public was adhering to these guidelines.
Not surprisingly, most Americans fell far short, with only 22.9 percent meeting these minimum standards for both aerobic and strength-training activities. The only positive note was that the bar had been set very low, as the government set a goal of just 20 percent adherence to these recommendations by 2020. So even with under 23 percent of Americans meeting the guidelines, we actually managed to surpass these meager expectations.
When broken down by region, the researchers discovered that there were significant geographic disparities in physical activity levels. In 14 states and the District of Columbia, far more adults met or exceeded the exercise guidelines than the national average, but in 13 other states, those figures were well below that average.
Gender also turned out to be a factor in differences in exercise levels around the country. For men, Washington, D.C. logged the highest rates of physical activity, with more than 40 percent of residents meeting the recommendations. At the other end of the spectrum was South Dakota, where fewer than 18 percent of the men surveyed reported adequate exercise levels.
Women and men must not be working out together, because the ladies had completely different best and worst locations. The women residing in Colorado were the most active, with close to 33 percent meeting recommended guidelines. While those living in Mississippi were on the bottom, with less than 10 percent of women getting the recommended dose of exercise. And women in general were not as physically active, with just 18.7 percent overall meeting the federal government’s standards.
These disparities may have been influenced by cultural and social factors, income levels, occupational status, and unemployment rates. In fact, the investigators noted that those states with greater numbers of professional and managerial employees tended to have more regular exercisers. And the same held true in locations with lower unemployment, better overall health, and fewer subjects reporting disabilities.
But ultimately, let’s not forget that no matter where you live, it is up to you to take charge of your health and make some time for physical activity. While that might be easier to do if you’re surrounded by friends and family who enjoy exercising, it’s certainly not an excuse if you are not. You can go it alone or try to find a workout buddy to motivate each other to get more active together. Suggest starting a walking group at your workplace, where you can go on daily walks at lunchtime or right after work. Instead of making plans to meet a friend for dinner or coffee, ask if they would be interested in taking a bike ride or going dancing. And don’t forget to add in strength training and flexibility components as well, to ensure you have a well-balanced exercise routine that can truly make a difference in your health.
- 1. Blackwell, Debra L. and Clarke, Tainya C. "State Variation in Meeting the 2008 Federal Guidelines for Both Aerobic and Muscle-strengthening Activities Through Leisure-time Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 18-64: United States, 2010-2015." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 28 June 2018. Accessed 2 July 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr112.pdf.