Just a few weeks ago, a study was released that demonstrated something shocking. Truly shocking. Of course, we know that overweight and obesity are problems in modern America, and we're beginning to realize exactly how large a problem it is. But one thing we may not fully realize is just how much a poor lifestyle contributes to it.
We know that poor dietary choices and low levels of exercise contribute to obesity, but for consumers, the question is, "What does a poor diet really look like?" and "How much exercise is too little?" Well, we now have a number for how much exercise is too little.
Researchers at the University of Alabama have found that, on average, an obese American man gets 3.6 hours of vigorous exercise. Per year. An average obese American woman gets less. 1 hour per year. Without even addressing dietary choices, this pinpoints low physical activity as a major contributor to obesity.
Some readers have questioned the ability of the researchers to accurately measure exercise levels this low, but even taking margin of error into account, the research clearly shows that obese Americans are getting shockingly low levels of exercise. It's really no wonder that obesity results with activity levels this low.
Is it any wonder, then, that we're seeing the growth of drastic weight loss therapies, such as bariatric surgery, near-starvation diets, and more? Adult Americans have developed dietary and exercise habits that are nearly impossible to break, and have no other option other than drastic solutions. The guideline of 30 minutes of exercise five times a week is well-accepted as a threshold for adults looking to maintain weight and reduce risk of disease, but for obese Americans, this is not nearly enough.
However, at the same time as this shocking result was published, more encouraging news also hit the newspapers. Obesity rates in children dropped a stunning 43% over the past decade. Obese children are many times more likely to be obese adults, and this decline was seen as a massive reversal of a decades-long trend in obesity. In 2012, 8% of 3-5 year olds were obese, as opposed to 14% in 2004, and while this is a dramatic drop, 8% obesity prevalence is still a high percentage, and we'll need to see further drops in the future.
The point is that, despite decades of terrible health habits, including smoking, low levels of exercise, and poor diet, Americans may be starting to change their ways, and are teaching those habits to their children. Here's hoping.