A Shocking Percentage of Americans Don’t Exercise Enough, CDC Says

Less than a quarter of Americans are getting enough exercise, based on federal standards.

Only 22.9% of U.S. adults from 18 to 64 met 2008 guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise between 2010 and 2015, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on Thursday.

Government guidelines recommend leisure time exercise at least twice weekly. People should engage in “moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week” or “vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 75 minutes per week,” or any combination.

Breaking down the numbers both by gender and by state offers a wide variance. The highest percentage of men meeting the government’s exercise guidelines was in Washington, D.C. at 40.3%.; the lowest for men was 17.7% in South Dakota.

The national average for men was 27.2%.

The highest percentage of women meeting the guidelines was in Colorado at 31.5%; the lowest was Mississippi at 9.7%. For women, the national average was 18.7%.

Map of exercise. Source: CDC

As you can see from the map above, 14 states plus the District of Columbia have significantly higher averages compared to the national average while 13 states are significantly lower.

The CDC notes that because the study only looks at leisure time exercise, exercise done for work, or even during a commute is not included. The study also explains that adults working in physically demanding jobs or engaging in physical activity as they commute to and from work may be less likely to engage in leisure time exercise. The measurements may therefore fail to account for total physical activity. The study speculates that this unmeasured variable — non-leisure time exercise — may be why New York ranks so low. Six percent of New Yorkers commute to work by walking.

Getting enough exercise is important (and not just to boost these CDC numbers). The CDC lists eight important health benefits to exercise: controlling weight, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing risk of Type 2 diabetes, reducing risk for certain cancers, strengthening bones and muscles, improving mental health, and improving ability to move through everyday activities.

So how can you up your exercise and meet the government guidelines? The CDC recommends that adults should engage in 150 minutes weekly of “moderate-intensity aerobic activity,” such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of “vigorous-intensity aerobic activity” like running. In addition to this aerobic activity, people should do muscle strength exercises twice a week to work all of the major muscle groups.

Anything from yoga to weight lifting qualifies.

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