Why America Is Obese: We’re Not Exercising Enough, Study Says

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A new study by Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that America’s obesity epidemic might be more influenced by a lack of exercise than excess calorie consumption, the LA Times reports. The research shows that while obesity has risen in the past 22 years, the amount of time we spend exercising has taken a major dive.

In 2010, 52 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported doing no exercise in their free time, up from 19 percent and 11 percent in 1998. But here’s the kicker: The number of calories we consume has remained the same.




The researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey pinpoint trends in obesity, caloric intake, and physical activity over the past two decades. And while they expected a decline in time spent exercising, they, too, were surprised by how large the drop was.

“We suspected there was a trend in that direction, but not that magnitude,” Dr. Uri Ladabaum, the lead author of the study, told the Times.

Meanwhile, the study didn’t find any evidence of people consuming more daily calories than in 1998. However, caloric intake was self-reported in the survey, so the researchers warn that there is room for error. They also point out that although there was a decline in exercise and a rise in obesity, it does not necessarily mean that one caused the other. (In other words, it’s the age-old correlation-versus-causation debate.) But while the study cannot prove causation, researchers are hopeful that it can still help to inform the conversation around physical activity and American obesity.

The takeaway? Move your butts, people. And if you need some ideas to get you started, check out our weekly BeWOW workouts here.

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  • DTurner

    I love how all of these studies and reports appear to conveniently miss that auto VMT has increased alongside obesity. One of the best ways to incorporate activity into your daily schedule is to have a commute (and frankly a lifestyle) that encourages walking instead of driving.

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  • crewgirl11

    I would be curious to know the age range of the men and women in the survey. Sad to think that the percentage is that high for people being so sedentary, but if we eat the same amount as we did when we were younger (as we age) it takes more to burn off…thus obesity if you’re doing nothing and eating not-so-great.