Monday, April 16, 2012

"Americans Still Not Exercising"

I put the title for this week's blog post in quotes as it is the exact title of the article that you can find by clicking here.  This is a short piece in the Baltimore Sun that came to my attention this morning thanks to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health News Feed.  The title is pretty self-explanatory and the news "bite" is shorter than this blog entry will be.

First, let's acknowledge one thing.  The survey that says fewer people are active was conducted by...the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.  The fact that they have an incentive to tell people they are not sufficiently active so they can sell more goods is not lost on me.

Second, the change in the number of inactive adults over a one year period was a 1.6 percent increase--noticeable but not huge.  What is more noticeable is the 8 percent increase in a three year time period.  The article does not make clear whether that is adjusted for population growth or not, but 8 percent in three years is certainly more than could be accounted for by population growth.

Third, the piece says that Utah is the most active area.  Here, the article makes a distinction between regular exercise and complete non-participation.  I am not sure what it is about Utah, but it seems like a place that has great skiing, moderate temps for part of the year, and a lot of open space.  Since hiking and camping are activities listed, this may help to account for some of this difference.

Fourth, the piece comments that southern states are less active.  I'm not sure that could explain complete non-participation, but I could certainly see regular exercise being an issue for those who don't have a climate controlled place in which they can exercise.

Fifth, the article points out that hiking and camping are growing in popularity.  At least hiking is something that does not necessarily require organization, can be social as well as physical, does not require a gym membership, and can be done with little planning ahead.  It seems like a lot of forces in people's lives might push them toward this type of activity.

Finally, there is also the comment that yoga and boot camp classes are popular.  I don't participate in either regularly but I have done each at different points in time.  I would be very interested to know what brings more people to each of two very different activities.  I don't have a strong hypothesis about this one other than a general trendiness of each.

So, the brief news piece does not have all bad news, but does leave us to wonder what incentives or information could be used to move the 24 percent of US adults labeled as inactive (i.e., no participate in any of 119 possible activities) to do something.


  1. Creeping work schedules and overcommitments are literally killing people. Many don't think they have the time to exercise - and, an hour a day does seem daunting. However, exercise can be sneeky. Park your car in the spot farthest from the store. Take the stairs. Walk the dog 5 minutes longer. Ride the bike to school or work. Vacuum. Push the lawn mower. Use a hand saw rather than a gas-powered one. The 60+ minutes of exercise we're supposed to get doesn't have to be done at one time, nor does it have to be a "sport' to count.

  2. Great point Scott. In fact, when Erik Finkelstein wrote his book about the economics of obesity he pointed out how much less "incidental" exercise we get compared to what we used to get.