The Unhealthy State Of The Nation


Think you have a healthy lifestyle? Congratulations, you are one of only 2.7 percent of Americans who do, according to a new study.

The guidelines for determining who does and doesn’t live right were dismally low. If you get a moderate amount of exercise, eat right, keep that body fat under control, and don’t smoke – you qualify. 97.3 percent of Americans apparently didn’t make the grade.

The study used data collected from more than 4,700 people who participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey. The researchers used the information to figure out how many people followed four general “principles of healthy living” — a proper diet, moderate exercise – about 150 minutes of physical activity a week, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

“The behavior standards we were measuring for were pretty reasonable, not super high. We weren’t looking for marathon runners,” said study senior author Ellen Smit, an associate professor at the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, in Corvallis, to a USA Today reporter.

What the researchers found was that 71 percent of those surveyed do not smoke, 46 percent engaged in regular exercise, 38 percent had a healthy diet, and 10 percent were at a healthy weight for their height and age.

16 percent of those surveyed could claim to have three of the four healthy lifestyle indicators, 37 percent had two, 34 percent had one and 11 percent had not even one.

Women were more likely than men to eat healthy and not smoke, but they were less likely to get enough exercise. Older Americans — 60 years and over — overall were less healthy than those ages 20-39 but were more likely than the youngsters to have eat healthy and not smoke.

The Washington Post noted that the study’s results are considered to be more reliable than previous ones “because researchers used technology to track participants instead of self-reported surveys. For exercise, for instance, the researchers used an accelerometer, such as the ones in a phone or fitness band, to track movement. And blood samples were taken to confirm whether people were smokers.” Diet information was self-reported by study participants.

People who do eat right, exercise, maintain a healthy body fat ratio and don’t smoke can reduce their risk of serious health problems including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The study was conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Smit said the findings were disappointing in a news release.

“To have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle … is sort of mind boggling. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.”

The study was published March 21 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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