Only 23% of Americans Get Enough Exercise, a New Report Says

Less than a quarter of Americans are meeting all national physical activity guidelines, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Federal physical activity guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, in addition to muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. But according to the new NCHS report, which drew on five years of data from the National Health Interview Survey, only about 23% of adults ages 18 to 64 are hitting both of those marks. Another 32% met one but not both, and almost 45% did not hit either benchmark.

Those numbers fluctuated somewhat depending on gender, occupation and home state. More men (roughly 27%) than women (almost 19%) met both guidelines, and both genders saw slightly higher percentages among working adults (almost 29% and 21%, respectively).

The authors also added that people working in managerial or “professional” positions were more likely than individuals in production roles, such as assembly and manufacturing, to meet the standards. However, the report looked only at leisure-time physical activity, so adults who log exercise through active jobs or commutes were not included in the findings.

Some states saw adherence rates well above the national average, while others were well below. Colorado led the pack, with 32.5% of adults meeting both federal exercise guidelines. In Mississippi, just 13.5% of adults reported meeting both exercise guidelines.

With some exceptions, states on the West Coast and in the Northeast tended to have higher percentages of residents meeting the guidelines than states in the South. Residents of states in the Southeast had particularly low rates. High levels of unemployment and disability or poor health in a state were correlated with lower rates of meeting exercise guidelines, the researchers found.

In all, the results suggest that most Americans should try to squeeze more exercise into their time off, given its well-established connections to everything from chronic disease prevention to mental and cognitive health benefits.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected]

Only 23 percent of U.S. adults meet exercise recommendations, CDC report finds

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that just under a quarter of U.S. adults (23 percent) are meeting the agency’s recommendations when it comes to exercise.

While that number exceeds the goal set by CDC’s Healthy People 2020 initiative started in 2010, it shows that Americans have a long way to go when it comes to getting enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise. The report authors point out that results varied widely by region, with many states failing to meet the objective.

“The extent to which adults met these guidelines varied by state, sex, and current work status. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia had significantly higher percentages of adults meeting the guidelines through LTPA (leisure-time physical activity) than the national average, while 13 states had percentages that were significantly below the national average,” they said.

Results by state and gender

States in which residents significantly exceeded the CDC’s fitness guidelines included Washington, California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.

Colorado led the way when it came to fit individuals, with 32.5 percent of state residents exceeding the national average. It was followed by Idaho (31.4 percent), New Hampshire (30.7 percent), and the District of Columbia (30.7 percent).

States with residents falling significantly below national averages were located primarily in the South; the full list includes Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, South Dakota, and New York. The worst performing state when it came to fitness was Mississippi, with only 13.5 percent of residents meeting federal aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines.

When divided by gender, the researchers found that 28.8 percent of men met the exercise guidelines at the national level. By comparison, only 20.9 percent of women were able to meet the guidelines.

Exercise guidelines

The CDC currently recommends that all adults avoid physical inactivity to prevent a range of health issues. To obtain substantial health benefits, the agency recommends that adults:

  • Engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week; and

  • Engage in muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate- or high-intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.

For children and adolescents, regulators recommend 60 minutes of daily physical activity. In addition to participating in aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, the agency says that young people should also include exercises that help increase bone strength.

Only 23 Percent of Americans Are Excising Enough, According to the CDC Guidelines

Photo: Jacob Lund/

Only about one in four U.S. adults (23 percent) meet the nation’s minimum physical activity guidelines, according to the latest National Health Statistics Reports by the CDC. The good news: That number has increased from 20.6 percent, according to a 2014 CDC report on nationwide physical activity levels.

ICYDK, official guidelines recommend that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) a week, but advise 300 minutes of moderate activity (or 150 minutes of vigorous activity) weekly for optimal health. In addition, the CDC says adults should be doing some type of strength training at least two days a week. (Need help hitting that goal? Try following this routine for a perfectly balanced week of workouts.)

If you’re thinking: “I don’t know anyone who works out that much,” it might be because of where you live. The percentage of people meeting activity guidelines really varies for each state: Colorado was the most active state with 32.5 percent of adults meeting the minimum standard for both aerobic and strength exercise. The other active states rounding out the top five include Idaho, New Hampshire, Washington D.C., and Vermont. Meanwhile, Mississippians were the least active, with just 13.5 percent of adults meeting the minimum exercise requirements. Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina, and Arkansas finish off the top five least active states.

The fact that the overall nationwide rate surpassed the government’s Healthy People 2020 goal-to have 20.1 percent of adults meeting exercise guidelines by 2020-is great news. However, the fact that less than a quarter of Americans are staying physically active enough to maintain good health is not so great.

Obesity rates have been steadily rising since 1990, with the national rate clocking in at about 37.7 percent, according to the CDC’s latest obesity stats, and that may be one reason the U.S. life expectancy actually declined for the first time since 1993. (FYI, the U.S. obesity crisis is affecting your pets too.) And while a poor diet is the number one risk to your health, it’s no coincidence that Colorado-the most active state-also has the lowest rate of obesity and that Mississippi-the least active state-ranks number two for the highest obesity rate.

The most common barriers to exercise, according to the CDC: time and safety. Beyond that, there’s the inconvenience factor, a lack of motivation, lack of confidence, or the feeling that exercise is boring. If you’re not as active as you’d like to be and are hearing yourself think, “yes, yes, yes” to each of these excuses, don’t lose hope:

  • Tap into a group of friends or our Goal Crushers Facebook Group to surround yourself with people who have the same goal-feel great, be happy, get healthier.
  • Try a transformation challenge, like our 40-Day Crush-Your-Goals Challenge with Jen Widerstrom to stay accountable and get guidance along the way.
  • Read up on all the other benefits of exercise besides weight loss or aesthetic goals. Once you find an active activity you actually enjoy, you’ll be hooked.
  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen and Lauren Mazzo

Facts & Statistics

Physical Activity

  • Only one in three children are physically active every day.1
  • Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day;2 only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week.3
  • Only 35 – 44% of adults 75 years or older are physically active, and 28-34% of adults ages 65-74 are physically active.4
  • More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and more than 80% of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth.5
  • In 2013, research found adults in the following states to be most likely to report exercising 3 or more days a week for at least 30 minutes: Vermont (65.3%), Hawaii (62.2%), Montana (60.1%), Alaska (60.1%). The least likely were Delaware (46.5%), West Virginia (47.1%) and Alabama (47.5%). The national average for regular exercise is 51.6%.6
  • Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen (e.g., TV, videogames, computer).7
  • Nationwide, 25.6% of persons with a disability reported being physically inactive during a usual week, compared to 12.8% of those without a disability.3
  • Only about one in five homes have parks within a half-mile, and about the same number have a fitness or recreation center within that distance.5
  • Only 6 states (Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York and Vermont) require physical education in every grade, K-12.22
  • 28.0% of Americans, or 80.2 million people, aged six and older are physically inactive.23
  • Nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for 3 or more hours on an average school day.24

Nutrition

  • Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat.2
  • Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.2
  • About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.8
  • Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200mg per day on could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.8
  • Food available for consumption increased in all major food categories from 1970 to 2008. Average daily calories per person in the marketplace increased approximately 600 calories.2
  • Since the 1970s, the number of fast food restaurants has more than doubled.2
  • More than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in food deserts – areas that are more than a mile away from a supermarket.9
  • In 2008, an estimated 49.1 million people, including 16.7 million children, experienced food insecurity (limited availability to safe and nutritionally adequate foods) multiple times throughout the year.10
  • In 2013, residents of the following states were most likely to report eating at least five servings of vegetables four or more days per week: Vermont (68.7%), Montana (63.0%) and Washington (61.8%). The least likely were Oklahoma (52.3%), Louisiana (53.3%) and Missouri (53.8%). The national average for regular produce consumption is 57.7%.6
  • Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of total daily calories for 2–18 year olds and half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.27
  • US adults consume an average of 3,400 mg/day , well above the current federal guideline of less than 2,300 mg daily.28
  • Food safety awareness goes hand-in-hand with nutrition education. In the United States, food-borne agents affect 1 out of 6 individuals and cause approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year.29
  • US per capita consumption of total fat increased from approximately 57 pounds in 1980 to 78 pounds in 2009 with the highest consumption being 85 pounds in 2005.30
  • The US percentage of food-insecure households, those with limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, rose from 11% to 15% between 2005 and 2009.31

Obesity

  • Data from 2009-2010 indicates that over 78 million U.S. adults and about 12.5 million (16.9%) children and adolescents are obese.11
  • Recent reports project that by 2030, half of all adults (115 million adults) in the United States will be obese.12
  • Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.1314
  • For children with disabilities, obesity rates are approximately 38% higher than for children without disabilities. It gets worse for the adult population where obesity rates for adults with disabilities are approximately 57% higher than for adults without disabilities.15
  • Obesity Then and Now2
    • Prevalence of obesity for children ages 2 to 5 years – doubled
      • Early 1970s: 5%
      • 2007-08: 10%
    • Prevalence of obesity for children ages 6 to 11 years – quadrupled
      • Early 1970s: 4%
      • 2007-08: 20%
    • Prevalence of obesity for children ages 12 to 19 years – tripled
      • Early 1970s: 6%
      • 2007-08: 18%
    • Percentage of obese adults – doubled
      • Early 1970s: 15%
      • 2007-08: 34%
    • States with an adult obesity prevalence rate of more than 25%:
      • Early 1970s: Zero
      • 2007-08: 32
  • Nearly 45% of children living in poverty are overweight or obese compared with 22% of children living in households with incomes four times the poverty level.16
  • Almost 40% of Black and Latino youth ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese compared with only 29% of White youth.16
  • Obesity among children in the United States has remained flat – at around 17% – in 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.25
  • Between 2003 and 2012, obesity among children between 2 and 5 years of age has declined from 14% to 8% – a 43% decrease in just under a decade.25
  • Obesity rates in children 6 to 11 years old have decreased from 18.8% in 2003-2004 to 17.7% in 2011-2012; obesity rates for children 12 to 19 years old have increased from 17.4% to 20.5% in the same time period.25

Human and Financial Costs of Obesity

  • Obesity-related illness, including chronic disease, disability, and death, is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.17
  • Projections estimate that by 2018, obesity will cost the U.S. 21 percent of our total healthcare costs – $344 billion annually.18
  • Those who are obese have medical costs that are $1,429 more than those of normal weight on average (roughly 42% higher).19
  • The annual cost of being overweight is $524 for women and $432 for men; annual costs for being obese are even higher: $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men.20
  • Obesity is also a growing threat to national security – a surprising 27% of young Americans are too overweight to serve in our military. Approximately 15,000 potential recruits fail their physicals every year because they are unfit.21
  • The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering. In 2008 dollars, these costs totaled about $147 billion.26

1 National Association for Sport and Physical Education.The Fitness Equation: Physical Activity + Balanced Diet = Fit Kids.Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1999.

12 Wang, Y Claire, McPherson, Klim, Marsh, Tim, Gortmaker, Steven L., Brown, Martin. Health and Economic Burden of the Projected Obesity Trends in the USA and the UK. The Lancet; 2011.

15 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 2003-2008. Available at:

17 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation. Report Brief, May 8, 2012. Available at: http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2012/Accelerating-Progress-in-Obesity-Prevention.aspx.

20 Dor, Avi, Christine Ferguson, Casey Langwith, and Ellen Tan. A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States. Washington, DC: The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services Department of Health Policy; 2010.

27 Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 10, Pages 1477-1484, October 2010. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20869486.

28 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidence. Report Brief, May 14, 2014.

29 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Improving Food Safety Through a One Health Approach. Workshop Summary, September 10, 2012.

30 United States Census Bureau. The 2012 Statistical Abstract. Health & Nutrition: Food Consumption and Nutrition. Table 217. Per Capita Consumption of Major Food Commodities: 1980 to 2009.

31 United States Census Bureau. The 2012 Statistical Abstract. Health & Nutrition: Food Consumption and Nutrition. Table 214. Households and Persons Having Problems with Access to Food: 2005 to 2009. Available at: https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed/health-nutrition.html.

Only 23% of U.S. adults are getting enough exercise, CDC report says

Brett Molina and Lilly Price USA TODAY Published 2:51 PM EDT Jun 28, 2018 Several studies have supported the health benefits for regular exercise, and a healthy diet. Getty Images/iStockphoto

We’re already not eating enough fruits and vegetables. On Thursday, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we’re not getting enough exercise either.

The report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found only 23 percent of Americans are meeting the federal standards set in 2008 for time spent exercising.

Ten years ago, the Department of Health and Human Services published national and state-wide exercise guidelines. Their goal was to have 20.1 percent of adults actively following the guidelines by 2020. Nationally, between 2010 and 2015, 22.9 percent of adults met that goal. However, success varied by the state a person lives in, work status, or sex, the report said.

Nationally, 18.7 percent of women and 27.2 percent of men hit the target goal. By state, Mississippi held the lowest percentage at 13.5 percent, while the top state was Colorado at 32.5 percent. States falling well below the national average were concentrated in the southeast, while most western states ranked above average.

“Understanding differences in leisure-time physical activity by state is important because states have the ability to support physical activity goals and objectives,” the study reported.

The study also notes choices Americans make on their jobs or where they live “can have very real consequences for their morbidity, disability, and mortality.”

More: Free food at work is making you unhealthy, study finds

HHS guidelines advise adults aged 18 to 64 should participate in some type of muscle strengthening activity at least twice a week, paired with moderate aerobic exercise for 150 minutes per week or 75 minutes per week if vigorously working out.

Several studies have shown exercise, along with a healthy diet, can lower the risk of death and other chronic conditions. In April, a study published in the American Heart Association journal “Circulation” found behaviors such as eating healthy and regularly exercising could add 10 years to your life.

Published 2:51 PM EDT Jun 28, 2018

More than 1 in 4 people across the world don’t get enough exercise, study says

More than a quarter of adults across the world don’t get a sufficient amount of exercise, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study released in September. The study used data from 358 surveys across 168 countries and 1.9 million people.

To be exact, 27.5 percent, or nearly 1.4 billion adults as the study estimates, don’t get enough exercise on a week-to-week basis, which could lead to health problems related to inactivity down the road.

According to a CDC report released in June, sufficient amount of physical activity, including activity during free time, is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.

The difference in the number of people getting insufficient exercise between genders is notable. Over 8 percent separates the men (23.4 percent) and women (31.4 percent).

The numbers haven’t changed much since the data started being collected in 2001. The insufficient exercise percentage internationally in 2001 was 28.5 percent, just slightly greater than the 27.5 percent mark recorded in 2016.

The health problems resulting from not getting enough exercise are well-documented and include numerous cardiovascular problems.

Different income levels also produced a major disparity in results. Low-income countries had 16.2 percent of their adults getting insufficient exercise compared to medium-income countries (26.0) and high-income countries (36.8).

According to the CDC report, only 22.9 percent of American adults ages 18-64 met both of the federal physical activity guidelines of exercising at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and do muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

The average of American adult men who met both guidelines was 27.2 percent while the women were at 18.7 percent.

TJ Mathewson is a junior journalism student at Arizona State University.

Study shows evolution of fitness training from functional to high tech

How is the U.S. choosing to get active?

What is causing inactivity in the U.S.?

Sports drink or water? Well, that depends

More than 1 in 4 US adults over 50 do not engage in regular physical activity

Press Release

Embargoed Until: Thursday, September 15, 2016, 1:00 p.m. ET
Contact: Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Despite the many benefits of moderate physical activity, 31 million Americans (28 percent) age 50 years and older are inactive – that is, they are not physically active beyond the basic movements needed for daily life activities. This finding comes from a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Adults benefit from any amount of physical activity,” said Janet E. Fulton, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s Physical Activity and Health Branch and one of the authors of the report. “Helping inactive people become more physically active is an important step towards healthier and more vibrant communities.”

Inactivity across the US

CDC researchers analyzed data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for all 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) to examine patterns of inactivity among adults ages 50 and older by selected characteristics. The analysis showed:

  • Inactivity was higher for women (29.4 percent) compared with men (25.5 percent).
  • The percentage of inactivity by race and ethnicity varied: Hispanics (32.7 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (33.1 percent), non-Hispanic whites (26.2 percent), and other groups (27.1 percent).
  • Inactivity significantly increased with age: 25.4 percent for adults 50-64 years, 26.9 percent for people 65-74 years, and 35.3 percent for people 75 years and older.
  • More adults with at least one chronic disease were inactive (31.9 percent) compared with adults with no chronic disease (19.2 percent).
  • By region, inactivity was highest in the South (30.1 percent) followed by the Midwest (28.4 percent) and in the Northeast (26.6 percent). Inactivity was lowest in the West (23.1 percent).
  • By states and D.C., the percentage of inactivity ranged from 17.9 percent in Colorado to 38.8 percent in Arkansas.
  • The percentage of inactivity decreased as education increased and also increased as weight status increased.

“This report helps us better understand and address differences in inactivity among adults 50 years and older,” said Kathleen B. Watson, Ph.D., an epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity and lead author of the report. “More work is needed to make it safer and easier for people of all ages and abilities to be physically active in their communities.”

Helping older adults to be physically active

Physical activity reduces the risk of premature death and can delay or prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers. As adults grow older, they are more likely to be living with a chronic disease and these diseases are major drivers of sickness and disability.

Non-institutionalized adults ages 50 years and older account for $860 billion in health care costs each year; yet 4 in 5 of the most costly chronic conditions for this age group can be prevented or managed with physical activity. Non-institutionalized adults are people not living in institutions such as correctional facilities, long-term care hospitals, or nursing homes and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.

Being physically active helps older adults maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones. Active older adults also have a reduced risk of moderate or severe limitations and are less likely to suffer from falls. Being physically active can also improve mental health and delay dementia and cognitive decline.

Everyone, including federal, state, and local governments, transportation engineers and community planning professionals, and community organizations can play a role in helping communities offer design enhancements and healthy lifestyle programs to create a culture that supports physical activity.

CDC is working with state health departments to increase physical activity by increasing the number of communities that have pedestrian and bike-friendly master transportation plans.

CDC is committed to helping adults of all physical ability levels become or remain physically active, including those with chronic conditions such as arthritis and diabetes. CDC recommends several proven programs that can help people with chronic conditions be active and experience the benefits of physical activity despite physical limitations.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICESexternal icon

Expanded fitness facilities at Lyon Center and USC Village help Trojans stay in shape

An American, a Brit and a Dutch guy go for a walk. That may sound like the beginning of a joke, but it’s actually the end of a USC-led study that could impact future research on physical activity.

With the help of fitness-tracking devices, an international team of scientists studied how physically active people consider themselves to be, versus how physically active they really are.

The research has revealed that no one gets it right. The American responses suggest they are as active as the Dutch or the English. Older people think they are as active as young people. In reality, though, Americans are much less active than the Europeans and older people are less active than the young.

Does this mean Americans are liars about their physical activity, or the Dutch and the English humbly underestimate theirs?

It means people in different countries or in different age groups can have vastly different interpretations of the same survey questions.

Arie Kapteyn

“It means people in different countries or in different age groups can have vastly different interpretations of the same survey questions,” said Arie Kapteyn, the study’s lead author and executive director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Kapteyn believes the differences in fitness perceptions are driven by cultural and environmental differences.

For instance, Americans are largely dependent on cars while the Dutch frequently walk or ride bicycles to work and for simple errands, Kapteyn said.

The study was published on April 11 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Physical fitness in America: perception vs. reality

For the study, the scientists tracked 540 participants from the United States, 748 people from the Netherlands and 254 from England.

Men and women in the study, ages 18 and up, were asked in a survey to report their physical activity on a five-point scale, ranging from inactive to very active. They also wore a fitness-tracking device on their wrist (an accelerometer) so that scientists could measure their actual physical activity over a seven-day period.

The researchers found that the Dutch and English were slightly more likely to rate themselves toward the “moderate” center of the scale, while Americans tended to rate themselves at the extreme ends of the scale, either as “very active” or “inactive.” But overall, the differences in how people from all three countries self-reported their physical activity was modest or non-existent.

The wearable devices revealed hard truths: Americans were much less physically active than both the Dutch and English. In fact, the percentage of Americans in the inactive category was nearly twice as large as the percentage of Dutch participants.

Reality bytes by age group

A comparison of fitness tracker data by age group reveals that people in all three countries are generally less active as they get older. That said, inactivity appeared more widespread among older Americans than participants in the other countries: 60 percent of Americans were inactive, compared to 42 percent of the Dutch and 32 percent of the English.

The researchers found that, in all three countries, the disparities between perceived and real activity levels were greatest among participants who reported that they were either “very active” or “very inactive.”

“Individuals in different age groups simply have different standards of what it means to be physically active,” Kapteyn said. “They adjust their standards based on their circumstances, including their age.”

Kapteyn said that since physical activity is so central to a healthy life, accurate measurements are important to science. The findings indicate that scientists should proceed with caution when interpreting and comparing the results of international fitness studies that have used standardized questionnaires.

“When you rely on self-reported data, you’re not only relying on people to share a common understanding of survey terms, but to accurately remember the physical activity that they report,” Kapteyn said. “With the wide availability of low-cost activity tracking devices, we have the potential to make future studies more reliable.”

The study co-authors include Htay-Wah Saw of the USC Dornsife College’s Center for Economic and Social Research, James Banks of the University of Manchester, Mark Hamer of Loughborough University, James Smith of the RAND Corp., Andrew Steptoe of University College London, Arthur van Soest of Tilburg University and Annemarie Koster of Maastricht University.

The U.S. portion of the research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging, including $243,170 (R-37AG25529 to James Smith at RAND and one for $127,060 (R01AG20717) to Kapteyn at USC.

More stories about: Exercise, Health Care, Research

Only 23 Percent of Americans Meet National Exercise Guidelines

Only 23 percent of American adults meet leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) guidelines, according to new research data from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that those between the ages of 18 and 64 engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity every week. Only 22.9 percent of adults currently meet these guidelines, according to the new data released on June 28.

However, this means the department’s Healthy People 2020 campaign—launched in 2010—is on track, as its goal was for 20.1 percent of Americans to meet the guidelines by 2020.

“That being said, we found that even though the average has met and exceeded the objective or the goal, there are differences,” Tainya Clarke, a health statistician and epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and one of the report authors, told CNN. “There are differences at the state level, and there are differences by some sociodemographic factors. … Many of the states with the highest percentages of populations meeting the guidelines through leisure-time physical activity were what you’d call ‘cold weather states’ like Colorado, New Hampshire, Massachusetts. And usually, we would think the warmer states would have more people outside running or biking or cycling, because that’s what we see on TV all the time.”

Fourteen states, including the District of Columbia, reported higher-than-average percentages of adults who meet LTPA guidelines, while 13 states reported percentages below the 22.9 percent average.

Most-active states:

1. Colorado: 32.5 percent
2. Idaho: 31.4 percent
3. New Hampshire: 30.7 percent
4. Vermont: 29.5 percent
5. Massachusetts: 29.5 percent

Least-active states:

Additionally, 28.8 percent of males met the LTPA guidelines, compared to 20.9 percent of females.

“We have to pause and ask ourselves, are we doing great as a nation?” Clarke said to CNN. “Is it really good that only 23 percent of our population is engaged in enough aerobic activity and muscle strength training, or do we need to do better?”

To view the complete data, click here.

Percentage of people who exercise

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