Running on Empty? Far Too Many of Us Aren’t Getting Enough Exercise

More than 77 percent of Americans are slacking off, with rates differing by gender, state, and work status

Just under 23 percent of American adults ages 18 to 64 are fully meeting federal recommendations for weekly exercise, according to data analyses the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week. Yet that pitiful figure exceeds the Healthy People 2020 goal of 20.1 percent of individuals’ meeting the lofty mark by that year.

The federal guidelines prescribe at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. Seventy-five minutes will do if the activity is vigorous. Combining moderate and vigorous aerobic activity is also acceptable.

Aerobic exercise includes such activities as running, swimming and skiing.

In addition to aerobic activity, the guidelines also encourage adults to engage in muscle-strengthening activities twice a week.

Doing calisthenics, using resistance bands, and lifting weights are examples of muscle strengthening activities.

Two and a half hours a week of aerobic exercise on top of twice-weekly muscle-strengthening sessions can be a tall order, simply in terms of the time involved, not to mention the aversion some folks have to prying themselves away from more pleasant or more pressing activities — or just out of sheer laziness.

A mom of four in New York said she gets roughly half the exercise each week that she’d prefer to get, between her work commitments, commuting, taking care of her kids and family, and doing errands. “I know how important getting regular exercise is, but actually making it happen or squeezing it in — that’s the hard part.”

This time-pressed parent is not alone, as a deeper dive into the study data reveals. She’s squarely in the overwhelming majority, in fact.

Related: Five Great Strength-Training Exercises for All of Us

The fact that she is a woman, that she lives in New York, and that she works are all factors that come into play.

She is joined by 84.7 percent of female New Yorkers who don’t get enough exercise, either. In the country as a whole, 81.5 percent of women don’t meet the guidelines. Among working women, the figure is only a smidgen better, at 79.1 percent.

The study revealed important differences in the amount of exercise people get depending on their gender, where they live, and whether they work.

States that beat the overall U.S. average of 22.9 percent by significant margins were primarily in the West. They include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The District of Columbia is also included in this group.

An impressive 32.5 percent of Coloradans meet the federal guidelines for amount of time spent on aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities during their leisure time.

The best-performing state is Colorado. An impressive 32.5 percent of Coloradans meet the federal guidelines for amount of time spent on aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities during their leisure time.

States falling significantly below the national average were primarily in the South and Southeast. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

The poorest-performing state was Mississippi. Just 13.5 percent of Mississippi residents met the mark.

Just over 27 percent of men met or exceeded the guidelines compared to 18.7 percent of women. Among working men, the figure was 28.8 percent, with working women trailing at 20.9 percent. In the case of nonworking men and women, the figures were 21.3 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.