1 in 7 Adults Eat Right and Exercise

Study: Americans Get Little Exercise, Eat Few Fruits, Veggies

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 05, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

April 5, 2007 -- As Americans spend billions each year on diet and exercise habits, it seems only a few are exercising at all, a new study shows.

The study shows dismal rates of healthy behaviors among Americans overall, a factor known to contribute to high rates of obesity and chronic illnesses.

Just one in seven U.S. adults reported regular physical activity along with consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Nearly 17% of men who described themselves as being of mixed ethnicity said they regularly combined both behaviors, compared with 13% of white men.

Seventeen percent of white women reported both healthy eating and exercise, compared with 15% of Hispanics and 13% of African Americans, according to the study, conducted by the CDC.

“Prevalence of engaging in both behaviors is low among all racial/ethnic populations,” the study concludes.

U.S. dietary guidelines call for adults to get five or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. Government health recommendations also urge at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or vigorous-intensity exercise at for least 20 minutes three days per week. Moderate-intensity exercise means exercise with some increase in breathing or heart rate; vigorous-intensity exercise means a large increase in breathing.

But Thursday’s study shows that few adults are meeting the goals.

“No matter what group, the American public isn’t eating enough fruits and vegetables,” says Mary Kay Solera, director of CDC’s fruit and vegetable program and one of the study’s authors.

Solera confirms that the study may overestimate actual healthy behaviors because it was based on subjects’ self-reports. Research participants are known to routinely overestimate good behaviors and underestimate bad ones.

“My gosh, we’ve got to do more,” Solera tells WebMD.

“These are two really good behaviors that when combined would do great for reducing the risk of chronic diseases. But how do we get you to do that?” she asks.