Although Americans are exercising more, they are sitting more and getting more obese, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity

Feb 23, 2016, 14:18 ET from Stanford Center on Longevity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a new joint report released by the Stanford Center on Longevity and Time, while Americans may be exercising more, they are sitting more, and not watching their diets. Consequently, we as a nation are becoming more obese.  Meanwhile, one in three (33%) Americans are unhappy with their weight, according to a survey also sponsored by the Stanford Center on Longevity and Time.  And many have good reason to be as this survey also found Americans are unable to resist the lure of junk food.

"For all the major medical miracles performed on a regular basis, the biggest challenge confronting this nation is protecting people from their own eating habits," said Peter D. Hart of Hart Research Associates who conducted the survey. "Americans profess that they would like to live to the ripe old age of 100 in good health, however, we eat like there is no tomorrow."

The Hart survey was conducted to supplement the major Sightlines Project Report undertaken by the Stanford Center on Longevity that provides a report card on where Americans stand in preparing for healthy, long lives. The report card, based on reports of over 1.2 million Americans over the past 20 years, indicates that for the first time in decades, more Americans are exercising regularly.

"The observation that Americans are exercising more after decades of stubbornly and persistently low levels of activity is very encouraging," said Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

However, sitting, which has emerged as an independent risk factor for health, is steadily increasing and problems with diet are widespread and are showing no signs of abating, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity. The study revealed the percentage of those meeting or exceeding the recommended weekly "dose" of exercise (≥150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise) is on the rise at every age.  According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which surveys 6,000 Americans biannually, 38.6% of adults were getting the recommended amount of exercise in 1999 compared with 45.4% in 2011.  Across the same time period, however, Americans are sitting for longer stretches.  Indeed, a majority across age groups are sedentary for a total of five or more hours per day.  Also according to NHANES, 43.3% of adults were sedentary for five or more hours per day in 1999 compared with 53% in 2011.  

The Hart survey, conducted online with a cross section of 2,330 adults nationwide, found:

  • Women (41%) and Gen Xers (40%) are most unhappy about their weight. 
  • Of those Americans who are unhappy with their weight, 26% admit they find it more challenging to limit their consumption of unhealthy foods than to add healthy foods to their diet.
  • Only one in four Americans (24%) reports doing well at getting regular exercise. 

Despite these challenges, Americans do want to make changes to stay healthy. Three in five (61%) are very or fairly concerned about staying healthy and avoiding serious illness, and vast majorities recognize diet and exercise as being essential or very important to living a long and healthy life.

Hart Research Associates conducted the survey on behalf of the Stanford Center on Longevity and Time and released the findings in conjunction with the Stanford Center on Longevity Sightlines Project: Seeing Our Way to Living Long, Living Well in 21st Century America.


Survey Background:

The Sightlines Project investigates how well Americans are doing in each of these three areas that are critical to wellbeing as people age: financial security, social engagement and healthy living. The findings are based on analyses of eight nationally representative, high-quality, multi-year studies involving more than 1.2 million Americans over two decades.  The results are intended to stir national debate, guide policy development, stimulate entrepreneurial innovation, and encourage personal choices that enhance independent, 100-year lives.

The Peter Hart survey was conducted online November 20 to December 1, 2015, among a national sample of 2,330 adults aged 18 and over. The survey included an oversample of 300 Baby Boomers (adults born 1946 to 1964) for a total of 1,054; all age groups were weighted to their proper proportion in the total sample. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from a national panel of 2.4 million adults. Data for this survey have been weighted by age, race, sex, education, and region based on Census data to reflect known demographic characteristic of the U.S. adult population. This sample is an opt-in online sample and, as such, a credibility interval is used to index precision rather than a traditional margin of error. The credibility interval for this survey is 2.2 percentage points.

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SOURCE Stanford Center on Longevity