Americans Becoming Increasingly Sedentary

National physical activity guidelines have been in place for over a decade, but made little difference

Experts created and released national physical activity guidelines in 2008, but Americans haven’t really made a dent in improving their rates of activity. Worse yet, they’ve significantly increased the amount of time spent on sedentary behavior. 

Those findings were the major revelations from a first-of-its-kind study that factored work, leisure-time, and transportation-related physical activity.

A study published in JAMA Network Open analyzed results from over 27,000 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2007 to 2016. Researchers sought to find a percentage of Americans who met the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ activity guidelines, and how that rate may have changed since the release of the guidelines in 2008. 

Those guidelines, currently recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. 

Over the 10-year study period, the percentage of Americans who reported meeting the PA guidelines remained nearly flat—from 63.2% in 2007-2008 to 65.2% in 2015-2016. Worse, researchers noted a significant increase in sedentary behavior over the same time period, from 5.7 hours per day in 2007-2008 to 6.4 hours per day in 2015-2016. 

“Both insufficient activity and prolonged sedentary time are associated with a high risk of adverse health outcomes, including chronic diseases and mortality,” wrote the authors. “Our findings highlight a critical need for future public health efforts to aim for not only an increase in activity but also a reduction in sedentary time.”

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