Only 23% of U.S. Adults Get Enough Exercise
Only 23% of U.S. Adults Get Enough Exercise

Did you know that only one-quarter of the adults in the United States get enough exercise? According to new data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, we simply don't meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise.

So how much exercise should we get?

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The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends people who are between 18 and 64 years of age to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

We also should include muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.

Striving for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week isn't as hard as you think. That's 22 minutes per day. Or 11 minutes, twice per day. There's really no excuse. I'm guilty myself, so this isn't judgmental.

Healthy People 2020

In 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services started an initiative to hit a target goal of 20.1% of adults meeting this guideline by 2020. The CDC report, published June 28, 2018, revealed that their goal had already been surpassed; 22.9% now meet the minimum recommended amount of exercise.

"That being said, we found that even though the average has met and exceeded the objective or the goal, there are differences," said Tainya Clarke, a health statistician and epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics and one of the authors of the report.

"There are differences at the state level, and there are differences by some sociodemographic factors."

Tainya mentions that if you live in Colorado, there's a pretty good chance that you've exercised today.

Sociodemographic Factors

There's a lot of evidence that shows different sociodemographic factors affect our health outcomes. Our age, race, ethnicity, language, income, and education levels are all sociodemographic factors.

This is unfortunate because there are payment programs that reward or penalize hospitals for the quality of care that they provide.

Medicare programs without risk adjustment, for example, will disproportionately penalize hospitals that serve vulnerable people. Risk adjustment can include stratified public reporting for patient characteristics, adjustment of performance scores, direct adjustment of payment, and restructured payment incentives.

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10 States With the Most People Exercising in Their Spare Time

Below are the states that have the highest percentage of adults meeting the minimum activity requirements.

10.) Minnesota - 27.7%

While only 15% of nonworking women got enough activity in their leisure time, the state has an above-average amount of working men and women who meet the exercise guidelines.

9.) Alaska - 27.9%

A greater share of Alaskans met the exercise guidelines than all Americans on average, in 2016 the obesity rate was 31.4% - highest of any state on the list.

8.) Utah - 28.2%

Working men in Utah were most likely to meet the exercise guidelines above, but all groups exceed.

  • Working Men - 30.7%
  • Nonworking women - 27.4%
  • Working women - 26.5%
  • Nonworking men - 22.6%

7.) Washington - 28.9%

According to statistics from 2010 through 2015, 31.2% of men and 26.2% of women met the exercise guidelines.

6.) Vermont - 29.5%

5th place and 6th place are a tie - Vermont and Massachusetts both have an average of 29.5% of adults meeting the recommended exercise guidelines.

A smaller 21.4% of nonworking men in Vermont gets enough leisure-time exercise.

5.) Massachusetts - 29.5%

Boasting one of the lowest obesity rates in the country at 23.6% in 2016, Massachusetts men get about 33%, while a little more than 25% of women get enough leisure-time exercise.

4.) New Hampshire - 30.7%

New Hampshire is the only state where a greater percentage of women than men met the exercise guidelines - only by a small margin.

A larger share of nonworking women met the guidelines here than any other state.

Oh, they are also tied with District of Columbia for the percentage of adults who got enough exercise.

3.) District of Columbia - 30.7%

In the nation's capital, 40% of men got enough exercise. This is nearly twice the percentage of women who met the federal guidelines.

2.) Idaho - 31.4%

Idaho had a greater share of working women than all but five states. Here's how the different groups stacked up:

  • Working men - 36.5%
  • Nonworking men - 34.8%
  • Nonworking women - 28.5%
  • Working women - 27%

1.) Colorado - 32.5%

The gap between men and women in Colorado was the smallest.

Colorado is known for a lot of things, including having an all-you-can-eat buffet of outdoor recreational activities. This state also has the lowest adult obesity rate in the nation - at 22.3 percent in 2016.

A U.S. News analysis also states that Colorado is home to 29 of America's 500 Healthiest Communities.

We Simply Aren't Moving Enough

Colorado has 32.5% of adults who get enough exercise. The District of Columbia, as well as 13 other states, significantly exceed the guidelines.

On the other hand, there were 13 states that were significantly lower, with Mississippi coming in at just 13.5%.

Cold Weather States

Wouldn't you think that states known for harsh winters like Colorado, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts would have a lower percentage who meet the guidelines due to weather?

Believe it or not, the cold weather states are the states that have the highest percentage who reach the minimum guidelines.

Many states that fail to meet the Healthy People 2020 goal were in the southeast. This includes Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

"We have to pause and ask ourselves, are we doing great as a nation? Is it really good that only 23% of our population is engaged in enough aerobic activity and muscle strength training, or do we need to do better?" Clarke said.

Measuring Results by Gender

An average of 28.8% of men met the guidelines. This includes 40.5% of men working in the District of Columbia, compared to 17.5% in South Dakota.

Women, on the other hand, get an average of 20.9% who meet the guidelines nationally - ranging from 10.5% in Mississippi to 33.6% in Colorado.

Most Jobs Aren't Active Enough

Did you know that people who are in professional and managerial occupations were more likely to meet these guidelines?

It's really not a surprise.

As someone who's worked in the warehouse and in a nice office, going to exercise after working eight to 12 hours a day on your feet is just not the first thing on your mind.

There is a silver lining.

If you can muster up the energy to have an active job and you get exercise in on your leisure time, you are more likely to be healthier than those who do not.

Daniel Corcos, a professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago mentions that some jobs have physical factors that others do not. Take a firefighter for instance.

"But there are virtually no jobs out that require the heart to be elevated continuously at more than 100 beats per minute and also strengthen the muscles in a way they do in leisure-time physical activity that includes both aerobic and resistance activity," says Corcos.

Wrapping It Up

We have to get more active and take ownership of being lazy. Myself included.

If we want to live a healthy life, exercise and eating right will fight off many illnesses that are associated with a lack of physical activity. Hypertension and diabetes being two of the biggest.

CDC data from 2016 says that only 20% to less than 25% of adults had obesity in Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

The same data set said that 35% or more of adults in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia had obesity.

"It's clear that seven out of 10 adults in Colorado aren't exercising, so even at the best this is something people find difficult and they need help," Corcos said. "They need to be provided facilities or trainers or a healthcare program at work or some mean to enable them to work out because the evidence is compelling that exercise is arguably the most simple and best medicine."

You can do this, two times per day spend 11 minutes keeping your heart above 100 beats per minute. It's not hard, you don't need fancy equipment, and your body will thank you.

Let's help the Healthy People 2020 initiative hit a 35% goal by 2020, with no state having less than 20% of adults in any state.

We can do it.