Stanford University School of Medicine researchers found that inactivity rather than overeating could be driving the surge in Americans’ obesity. Pouring through national health survey results from 1988 through 2010, the researchers found huge increases in both obesity and inactivity, but not in the overall number of calories consumed. Data was analyzed from the National Health Nutrition Examination Survey, a long term project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that collects information from surveys and from physical examinations to assess Americans’ health. They considered survey results from 17,430 participants from 1988 through 1994 and from approximately 5000 participants from 1995 through 2010.
Survey participants recorded the frequency, duration and intensity of their exercise within the previous month. The team defined “ideal” exercise as more than 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or more than 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise. Women reporting no physical activity jumped from 19% to 52% between 1988 and 2010. An 11% to 43% increase in percentage of inactive men was also recorded over the same period.
Obesity also increased, climbing from 25% to 35% in women and from 20% to 35% in men. Although the number of calories consumed per day did not change significantly. Belly fat in women increased from 46% in 1988 to 61% in 2010, while belly fat in men increased from 29% to 42% for the same period. Lastly the study showed that the waists of even normal-weight women swelled between 1988 and 2010. The take away is, to get healthier – get moving!
By Molly McBrayer, clinical manager, Roper St. Francis Bariatrics & Metabolic Services