Although physicians and public health officials have long been urging Americans to get more exercise, new research from the University of Iowa suggests that those messages may not be having the intended effect.
Researchers, led by Dr. Wei Bao, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, were curious if the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, released in 2008, had led to an increase in physical activity over time.
Dr. Bao and his team analyzed data from a representative sample of more than 27,000 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, an ongoing annual assessment of American’s health, nutrition and exercise status. The resulting paper, published in JAMA Network Open, finds that rates of physical activity rates did not change much between 2007 and 2016. In the 2007-2008 survey, 63 percent of the participants engaged in the recommended amount of aerobic physical activity, and that share was about the same — 65 percent — in the 2015-2016 survey, the most recent years for which data are available.
However, when Dr. Bao’s team looked at sedentary behavior, they found that more people are sitting for longer periods each day. In the first survey period, 16 percent of the people reported sitting for over six hours a day while also not meeting the recommended amount of physical activity, and that proportion increased to nearly 19 percent in the second survey. The mean number of hours per day that people spent sitting increased from 5.7 hours to 6.4 hours in that time period.
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