It’s no secret that Americans are unhealthy. With rising obesity rates, millions dying every year from heart disease, and a myriad of other problems starting to surface due to our horrible diets, lack of exercise, and overuse of antibiotic drugs, it’s pretty easy to be overly pessimistic about our societal health. While there is reason for optimism — we’ve managed to eradicate a number of diseases, and people are living far longer than ever before — a new report has surfaced that all but reaffirms our fears that Americans need a wake up call when it comes to their health.
Researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi published the results of a study that looked at four main areas that constitute a “healthy lifestyle,” those being “a good diet, moderate exercise, a recommended body fat percentage and being a non-smoker.” The bad news? Almost all Americans failed the four-point test.
“The behavior standards we were measuring for were pretty reasonable, not super high,” said Ellen Smit, senior author on the study and researcher at the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “We weren’t looking for marathon runners.”
“To have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “This is sort of mind boggling. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.”
The study itself looked at 4,745 individuals, and came away with some rather depressing figures. On the following pages, we outline five of them.
1. 2.7% of Americans live a healthy lifestyle
The headline figure from the study is that a measly 2.7% of Americans actually hit all four markers of living a healthy lifestyle. That’s it. Less than 3% of Americans actually passed the test, according to this particular study. To recap, that means that 2.7% of Americans — per the < 5,000 sample size — don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and have a body fat percentage within a normal range.
As you read, even the researchers were dismayed and depressed by how low the figure was. But even more surprising? The percentage of people who didn’t pass any category. And that was 11%.
2. 10% have a normal body fat percentage
As we’ve covered in detail, Americans have an obesity problem. There’s no one cause of it, either. We’re getting fatter and fatter, even as we’re told over and over by medical professionals that we need to fix our eating habits and start exercising. But we don’t care. And the proof is in the numbers, as only 11% of those surveyed actually had a healthy or normal body fat percentage.
What’s classified as “normal” in any one individual’s case depends on certain factors, like your genetic makeup and your height, and you can easily look it up. But the fact that nearly 90% of the study’s participants fell outside of those lanes is eye-opening.
3. Less than half get enough exercise
If you’re like many people, you probably feel guilty that you spend all day sitting in front of a computer, and then go home and proceed to sit in front of a different computer or your TV. You know you should get to a gym or go for a walk — yet, you don’t. We don’t get enough exercise. In fact, less than half of us do. As you might have guessed, that plays into our issues with obesity and cardiovascular disease, and may be a root cause of many other diseases, as we’re continuing to learn.
4. 38% eat a proper diet
They say what you eat is, in many ways, more important than actually exercising. When you think about it, it makes sense. If you gorge all day on sugar or salt-heavy snacks, taking in thousands of calories, you’re going to put on a lot of weight. If you snack on healthier options, your body will probably deal with it a lot easier. But Americans love food, and our diets reflect it. Only 38% of actually eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, according to the study. Depending on the cultural norms where you live, that may be surprisingly high. But overall for society? It doesn’t inspire much confidence.
5. 29% still smoke cigarettes
Some people like to smoke. That’s not really a big deal. But given everything that we know about cigarettes and tobacco use, it’s pretty crazy that 29% of this study’s participants still do it. We know it causes a host of medical problems, and will eventually kill you. Not only that, but the decision to smoke impacts everyone else — either through second-hand smoke (if you happen to be nearby), inflated health care costs (putting more strain on the entire system, or through lost productivity (because you’re sick all the time).
Overall, smoking rates have been dropping dramatically. But it’s still amazing how many adults still partake, even with all of the information we have clearly spelling out how horrible it is.
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