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Only 20 Percent of Americans Get Enough Exercise: CDC

Update Date: May 03, 2013 10:00 AM EDT

It is often said that the United States is in the midst of an obesity crisis. But, according to a recent study, it seems that we are in the midst of a physical activity crisis as well. A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that only 20 percent of Americans perform the amount of physical activity that physicians recommend.

The study used data collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual survey that is conducted among adults who are 18 years old or older. Over 450,000 participants responded to questions about themselves, including about their physical activity habits, USA Today reports.

According to Health Day, only about 1 in 5 Americans perform both the aerobic exercises and muscle strengthening workouts, like sit-ups and push ups, that are considered ideal. However, the news was less disappointing when researchers broke down the categories separately. In fact, over half (51.6 percent) of adults performed the regular amount of aerobic exercise, which adds up to 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of a vigorous workout (one hour and 15 minutes). Only 29.3 percent of adults performed the recommended amount of muscle strengthening, which amounts to muscle strengthening exercises performed at least twice a week.

The amount of adults who exercised regularly varied by state. For example, while 27 percent of adults in Colorado said that they performed both aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises, only 13 percent of people in West Virginia could say the same. In fact, people in the West and the Northeast were the most physically active, with 24 and 21 percent of adults respectively. Women, Hispanics, older adults and obese adults were the least likely to exercise regularly.

Indeed, other research suggests that the number of adults who exercise regularly may be even lower than the study suggests. One study performed by the National Cancer Institute found that, when they tracked people with motion sensors, only 5 percent of adults exercised for 30 minutes a day.

Physical activity has been found to not only help with weight management, but to improve the immune system, increase cognitive power, lower the risk of depression and anxiety and to lower the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. Researchers also point out that exercise does not necessarily need to start with joining a gym.

"Simple steps to start moving include: enlisting a friend or family member to join you; taking a walk every evening after dinner; getting up and marching in place at every TV commercial; limiting TV and computer time; [and] scheduling your time to exercise in your daily calendar," exercise physiologist Samantha Heller said to Health Day.

The study was published in today's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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