February 17, 2017
Last Updated:
March 4, 2021

America’s Physical Health Has Improved—Kind Of

At Integrative Nutrition, we talk a lot about “primary food.” Contrary to how it sounds, we’re actually talking about everything besides food that nourishes your body and soul, such as healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, and regular physical fitness. So we were happy to hear when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that American adults are exercising more these days.

Physical activity is just one area of wellness that the CDC is following in its Healthy People 2020 initiative, which aims for Americans to meet 26 Leading Health Indicators over 10 years (Check out all of the topics the CDC is monitoring in the recently published progress report.) In its midcourse review, the CDC had great things to say about American adults’ fitness levels, and we hope it improves even more by the goal year 2020.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • More Americans are exercising at least lightly each week. Between 2008 and 2014, the percentage of adults who exercised lightly/moderately for at least 150 minutes a week, vigorously for at least 75 minutes, or a combo of both increased from 43.5 percent to 49.9 percent. (Need motivation to work out this winter? Read our tips here.)
  • The number of adults who didn’t engage in leisure-time physical activity decreased during those same years from 36.2 percent to 30 percent.
  • Americans are also more into exercises like weight training these days. The number of adults who performed muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week rose from 21.9 percent to 24.4 percent.

Although adult fitness has improved in many areas, the CDC found that adolescent exercise activity has not changed much—and in some ways, it has gotten worse.  Contrary to the adult findings, younger people weren’t as interested in strength training. The number of students grades 9 to 12 who met the guidelines for muscle-strengthening activities decreased from 55.6 percent in 2011 to 51.7 percent in 2013.

Similarly, the CDC found that fewer middle and junior high schools are requiring daily physical education for their students. The number decreased from 10.5 percent in 2006 to 3.4 percent in 2014. However, the number of high schools requiring it increased from 2.1 percent in 2006 to 4 percent in 2014.

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The CDC also delved into how much time children and adolescents spend in front of a screen—which could obviously take away from time being physically active. It turns out there was little or no change in the number of high school students who watched TV or played video games for more than two hours a day. From 2009 until 2013, it has hovered around 67 percent.

Here’s to continuing to meet those 2020 goals!

How many times a week do you exercise? Share with us here. 

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