We are inundated with all kinds of fads and formulas that purport to help us lose weight and improve our health. However, and mercifully, the federal government’s recommendations (through the voice of the CDC) tend to emphasize simplicity. As in, we should be getting regular exercise throughout the week. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even adhere to simple recommendations that will improve our health. A new report from the CDC breaks down American’s exercise habits by state, and the citizens of some states are failing miserably at caring for their health with regular exercise.
But, first, let’s look at the CDC’s recommendations for physical exercise:
The 2008 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) federal physical activity guidelines recommend that, for substantial health benefits, adults perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity, in addition to muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week.
It’s hard to deny that regular exercise plays a large determinative role in our health. Sedentary lifestyles have been unequivocally demonstrated to be bad for us. In fact, a recent study claims that a sedentary lifestyle is worse for our health than smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
With the importance of regular exercise in our minds, let’s now turn to the CDC’s new report. According to the study’s results:
Nationally, 22.9% of U.S. adults aged 18–64 met the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities during LTPA in 2010–2015. However, 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 than the national average, while 13 states had percentages that were significantly below the national average. The percentage of men who met the guidelines through participation in LTPA varied from 17.7% in South Dakota to 40.3% in the District of Columbia, with the national average being 27.2%. Among women, percentages varied from 9.7% in Mississippi to 31.5% in Colorado, with the national average for women being 18.7%. Percentages meeting the guidelines among men were less regionally concentrated than among women, especially with respect to exceeding the guidelines.
One thing that jumps out is that only 22.9 percent of American adults meet the guidelines. That seems like an incredibly low number. I don’t think of myself as a physically fit person, yet I meet the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Maybe the reason I don’t think of myself as a physically fit person is due in part to the fact that I live in an area that is at the top — 40.3 percent of men in D.C. meet the guidelines.
Further down in the study, the CDC provides a map that gives the percentage of adults aged 18-64 that meet the guidelines in each state.
The worst state is Mississippi, where only 13.5% of the adults meet the guidelines. The best state is Colorado, where 32.5 percent of adults meet the guidelines. Predictably, the region of the country that fares worst is the Southeast. As a group, men tend to exercise more than women, and this report bears that out.
It remains to be seen if being confronted by this report will encourage more Americans to exercise on a regular basis. One thing’s for sure: when I drive through Mississippi this summer, I’m going to enjoy being considered physically fit.