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Are we getting enough exercise? Report explores results of national goal

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Atlanta — The level of leisure-time exercise among U.S. adults exceeds the targeted goal of a national campaign aimed at promoting health, but Americans still have room for improvement, according to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2010-2015 National Health Interview Survey. Findings showed that 22.9 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 fulfilled Department of Health and Human Services guidelines of engaging in either 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, as well as participating in muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

Although that figure surpasses the goal of 20.1 percent set in 2008 by HHS’ Healthy People 2020 initiative, the results vary by state and demographic. In 14 states and the District of Columbia, the percentage of adults who met HHS guidelines was significantly higher than the national average, while 13 states had percentages significantly lower than the national average.

Among states, Colorado had the highest percentage of adults who met the activity guidelines (32.5), while Mississippi had the lowest (13.5). In addition, 27.2 percent of men met the guidelines, compared with 18.7 percent of women. For working adults, 28.8 percent of men fulfilled the guidelines, compared with 20.9 percent of women.

“I think, overall, the consensus is that it’s great that as a nation we have accomplished or exceeded the (preliminary) national goal,” Tania Clarke, report co-author and CDC health statistician, told Safety+Health on July 2. “But as individual states, some states are lagging … and these states will probably have to look at why their population isn’t more active or getting the recommended physical activity needed for the best health.”

Clarke said she and her colleagues hope the findings can influence researchers or policymakers “to further enhance public health.”

“Now that we have met that goal – and thankfully we have – we have to consider: Do we want to be a one-fifth physically active and healthy nation, or do we want to get up and beyond the 50 percent mark?” Clarke said. “But the goals have to be set incrementally, because they have to be realistic.”

CDC lists numerous benefits of physical activity, including lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke; longer life; improved mood; and better brain function.

The report was published online June 28.

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