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Americans Are Fitter, Yet, Fatter. Why?

Americans Are Fitter, Yet, Fatter. Why?

The United States faces a fitness paradox right now. If people are exercising more, as they claim to be, then why is it not doing anything for their waistlines? Obesity continues to affect one-third of Americans, despite increased levels of exercise.

In order to find out how much Americans are exercising, the University of Washington conducted a study based on thousands of responses collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of women who exercise ‘sufficiently’ rose from 50.7 percent in 2001 to 59.2 percent in 2011. For men, it rose from 59.4 percent to 61.3 percent. And yet, for every percentage point increase in exercise, there was only a 0.11 percent lower likelihood of obesity, and obesity rates overall have risen during the decade of study. Clearly something isn’t adding up.

Perhaps the problem lies in the definition of ‘sufficient exercise.’ The study stated that “150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity” were considered sufficient. Five 30-minute walks (for example, walking 15 minutes to and from work each day) is beneficial, but it’s likely not intense enough to melt away extra pounds. The study also relied on self-reporting, which can be an unreliable source of information. A person may think they’re exercising vigorously when they’re not.

More important, though, is the question of diet. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that exercise is almost pointless if a person doesn’t eat nutritiously. Engaging in 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week will accomplish little if someone continues to eat large quantities of greasy, salty processed food, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and sugar. It’s impossible to isolate exercise from diet when trying to lose weight, and inevitably there comes a point when a poor diet will inhibit progress, no matter how much a person exercises.

The University of Washington study agrees that problems with diet need to be addressed in order for exercise to fully benefit people:

“Our study showed that increased physical activity alone has a small impact on obesity prevalence at the county level in the U.S. Other changes such as reduction in caloric intake are likely needed to curb the obesity epidemic and its burden.”

I don’t think the number of calories matters so much as the kind of calories, because not all calories are created equal. If more people adjusted their diets to focus on healthy-sized portions of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean meats or fish, nuts and seeds, I suspect obesity rates would plummet in the U.S., even if exercise rates didn’t increase significantly. Like it or not, it all starts with nutrition.

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Read more: Fitness, General Health, Health

article by Katherine Martinko

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Kara, selected from TreeHugger

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, planetgreen.com and TreeHugger.com, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

85 comments

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8:29AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

totally food for thought, thanks

5:40AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

cool

1:31AM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Thanks for sharing

7:19PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

400 calories of fruits and vegetables are going to fill you up faster than 400 calories of animal protein. And, for that fact, 400 calories of oil won't even fill you up. Keeping your body hungry for nutrients....

12:55PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

You can't out exercise a bad diet. That is why I put so much effort into finding out what my food allergies were, giving up sugar, learning about digestive disorder issues and how to overcome them and detoxing my life both internally and environmentally.

Having a low thyroid/adrenal problems you have no choice but to put effort into diet since exercising too strenuously or for too long can be counterproductive. You will spend more time recovering than actually exercising or being productive in your day to day life. TYFS.

6:37AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

EXACTLY!!! The LAST 4 paragraphs hold the key--->NO doubt about that! When I first read the "heading" to this article, my only thought was, "exercise alone does NOT cut out the fat-factor-->only the FOOD intake can help that part". As I read further, I found that I was indeed right! You can exercise "til the cows come home" and you won't lose an ounce if you don't re-think your diet and eat more wisely. As long as you continue to eat at fast food restaurants and "piece" around on chips and sodas and the like; forget losing weight. It "ain't gonna happen"!

Attention all the dieters out there--->THIS article is definitely FOOD for thought!!

6:22PM PST on Jan 23, 2014

thank you

2:04AM PST on Jan 22, 2014

Fairly obvious

10:20PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

thanks

5:47PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

ty

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