Can’t Get Enough Exercise

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans not followed by 80 percent of population

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Two and a half hours of physical activity each week can sound like a lot for busy Americans. And it appears few Americans actually are exercising that much.

Only one in five adults in 2011 met the aerobic and muscular strength guidelines recommended by the federal government, a new report shows.

This report found that slightly more than half of American adults were getting the recommended amount of aerobic activity and only 30 percent were getting the recommended muscle-strengthening activity.

"Get the heart pumping with daily exercise."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under the direction of Carmen Harris, MPH, in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, investigated how often adults engaged in physical activity.

About 453,000 adults from all 50 states and Washington DC were surveyed over the phone using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Adults were asked to report how long and how often they were active in the two aerobic activities they engaged in the most outside of regular job duties during the past week or month. To be included, activities had to be done in sessions of at least 10 minutes.

Adults also reported how often they did strengthening activities during the past week or month.

According to the CDC's 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should get at least two and a half hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity equal to walking.

An hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity like jogging also counts, as well as doing some combination of the two.

In addition to aerobic activity, the guidelines suggest that adults do muscle strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups on two or more days a week. Activities can include sit-ups, push-ups, weight lifting and resistance band exercises.

Of the whole country, the West and Northeast had the highest proportion of adults who met both sets of guidelines, with 24 and 21 percent of their populations, respectively.

Of specific states, Tennessee had the lowest proportion of adults following guidelines at 13 percent of its population, while Colorado had the highest at 27 percent.

"Prevalence patterns by sex, education, and BMI for meeting the aerobic activity guideline and the muscle-strengthening guideline were similar to patterns observed for adults who met both the aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines combined," the researchers wrote in their report.

The CDC currently funds 25 states to address physical activity, nutrition, obesity and other chronic diseases.

Researchers noted that the survey data was self-reported, which means it may have been subject to certain biases.

Some respondents who didn't meet the guidelines might have been classified otherwise if the survey included physical activities done during work.

In addition, the original response rate to the survey was less than 50 percent.

"I think that everybody has their own definition of what fitness really is and, based on a very broad definition, I would absolutely agree that the bulk share of Americans are falling short, and they are falling short specifically on weight training and more intense based workouts," said Jim Crowell, head trainer and owner of Integrated Fitness and dailyRx Contributing Expert. "I believe strongly that there are great systems of training and that virtually anybody can put them self into a quality situation if they truly want or need it badly enough."

When looking into a gym or considering a gym membership, Crowell said that people should actually look into the gym and see if they feel comfortable in the atmosphere, which should be built on progress and have a little bit of flare.

The report was published online May 2 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 1, 2013
Last Updated:
August 13, 2013