Only one in four U.S. adults meet federal recommended guidelines for physical fitness, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 2008, the government has recommended that Americans mix muscle strengthening (at least twice a week) with aerobic activity for between 75 minutes of intense activity and 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week.
That can be as little as 10 minutes per day, every day, of intense physical activity.
Regular physical fitness lowers risk for many chronic diseases and early death.
Using results from the 2010 to 2015 National Health Interview Survey for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, researchers found that only 22.9 percent of adults age 18 to 64 met these guidelines. These results varied greatly based on state, sex and current work status.
At least 13 states had a percentage of adults meeting physical guidelines far below the national average. In South Dakota, only 17.7 percent of men exercised the minimum time recommended, compared to the national average of 27.2 percent. Likewise, in Mississippi, 9.7 percent of women federal guidelines compared with 18.7 percent of the nation.
In 14 states, however, percentages of adults meeting guidelines for exercise were much higher. Colorado, for example, has an average of 31.5 percent of women who exercise between 75 and 150 minutes per week.
In the District of Columbia, 40.3 percent of men reported meeting physical fitness guidelines. However, it’s important to note that examining fitness trends at a closer level, based on demographics, areas of the District fall well below the national average for physical fitness.
On average, women are less physically active than men, at 18.7 percent across the nation compared to 27.2 percent of men. A report by Duke researchers published earlier this month found that young women and African-American women are least physically active compared to other groups in the U.S.
Goals set up by the federal government to increase health and wellness among the population their Healthy People 2020 policy include reaching a national physical fitness participation rate of 20.1 percent.
The CDC data focuses on Leisure Time Physical Activity (LTPA), exercise that takes place outside of other, more regular movement, such as activity associated with one’s job or profession.
“… Even among adults who are physically active on the job every workday, those who engage in LTPA are likely to report better health than those who do not engage in LTPA,” the authors wrote in the report.
Looking at differences between physical activity among states is important because local government play an important role in facilitating access for exercise and responding to unique needs of the population, the authors wrote.
“Furthermore, employment rates and occupational distributions can vary across states, which may in turn be related to the likelihood that adults engage in LTPA on any given day,” they wrote.
Working men, in general, were more likely to achieve the minimum recommended physical guidelines than working women across all other demographics, according to the data, but employed individuals were also more likely to exercise more than those nonworking.
Geographic location proved to be the biggest determinant of whether residents meet physical activity guidelines. Southeast states like Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina had significantly lower than average percentages in every figure, the authors wrote. Tennessee and West Virginia are only slightly better, with lower-than-average percentages in six of seven categories.
New York and Indiana also had lower-than-average percentages in a majority of categories, compared to other states.
One outlier is Colorado, which had significantly high rates of physical activity across all demographics, men, women, working or nonworking and higher than the national average. Idaho and Washington, in addition other Western and Rocky Mountain region states, also had higher-than-average percentages of residents who met physical fitness guidelines.