Why Such a Lack in Vigorous Activity Among Americans?

Nov 09, 2010
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I live in the city, and there isn’t much chance of me doing a technical mountain climb. But I do get out with my family on the bike trail along Lake Michigan almost every day. Every day there are hundreds of us out there running, walking, wheeling and moving in every way imaginable along the Chicago Parks and Recreation trail that runs 36 miles along the lakeshore.

With the large crowds of people that I see in the water, on the sandy beach and streaming along the bike trail, I was surprised to learn that only 5% of Americans exercise vigorously on any given day. But those are the data.

Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. analyzed data from about 80,000 Americans participating in the American Time Use Survey and found that while almost 80% of Americans engaged in light activities every day (such as driving a car or getting dressed) most of us did not engage in moderate or vigorous activity on any given day. Just about 10% of the respondents reported lawn, garden or houseplant care and only 2.2% reported using exercise equipment and 1.1% running.

I think I see what the problem is. The study reported that between 78% and 88% of American workers earn their daily bread in sedentary occupations. It is very hard to get up, get everyone to school, work all day- even if you are sitting at a desk, supervise homework, cook dinner, supervise baths and bedtime and also somehow fit in vigorous exercise along with the laundry, grocery shopping, paying the bills and keeping up with the housework.

I wonder if one part of the problem is that we have to work too many hours. In other countries people work 28-30 hours a week for full time pay. They are able to go home in mid-day and they don’t rush around at breakneck speed all the livelong day, the way we do. The first thing most of us do on the weekend is to head to the park or the beach. We get out our bikes, we put on our running shoes and we go out to play. That is, we vigorously exercise. Maybe if we were able to make a living in fewer hours we would have a higher quality of life and be able to exercise more often.

The study was published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Photo Credit: AIMFREE, NCPAD 2010

Author: Tanya