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Heavy Findings in Fitness, Weight Poll

Survey: Few Exercise Frequently or Are Seriously Trying to Lose Weight
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 29, 2006 -- America is heavier than ever, with few people exercising frequently or trying to lose weight.

That news comes from a Gallup survey of about 1,000 U.S. adults (aged 18 and older) polled by phone less than three weeks ago.

Participants reported their height, weight, exercise habits, and whether they are trying to lose weight. Gallup calculated participants' BMI (body mass index), which relates height to weight. The result: Nearly six in 10 adults are overweight or obese.

Nearly 60% said they would "like to lose weight." But only 28% said "yes" when asked if they were currently "seriously trying to lose weight."

The poll doesn't show what percentage of the overweight participants were trying to lose weight.

The CDC's latest figures on America's weight differ from the Gallup poll. According to the CDC, 66% of American adults (age 20 or older) are overweight or obese, as of 2003-2004.

On the Sidelines

Gallup defined "frequent" exercise as working out five or more days per week. Nearly two-thirds of participants didn't meet that standard.

"The average American engages in moderate exercise three days a week, and 29% do so at least five days a week," states Gallup.

Vigorous exercise -- defined by Gallup as getting at least 20 minutes of sports or physical activities that cause large increases in breathing or heart rate -- was even rarer.

"Only 12% of Americans claim to do so on at least five days of the week," states Gallup. "The average American engages in vigorous exercise less than two days per week."

Changing Our Ways

Want to buck the trends seen in the Gallup poll?

First, check in with your doctor about healthy weight loss and a safe exercise program, especially if you've been idle a while.

Next, consider the CDC's recommendation for adult physical activity: Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week.

Here are some specific examples of moderate-intensity physical activity:

  • Walking at a moderate or brisk pace of 3 to 4.5 miles per hour on a level surface.
  • Hiking
  • Biking 5-9 miles per hour on level terrain or with few hills
  • Yoga
  • Using a stair-climber machine at a light-to-moderate pace
  • Golfing (wheeling or carrying clubs)

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