How are you feeling? Are you stressed out? Do you get enough sleep at night? If you are a typical American today, you are probably not as healthy as you could be. The stress of work and daily responsibilities can take a real toll on the body over time, but there are simple things people can do that would help mitigate this. One area nearly all Americans can do better in is exercise. There are a number of ways to add movement to your daily regimen.
Americans Are Exercise Deficient
In 2013, a CDC survey revealed that the vast majority of Americans do not get enough weekly exercise. Researchers collected data from more than 450,000 Americans ages 18 and up. They asked respondents how often they engaged in aerobic activity outside of work and for how long. According to the survey, only 20.6 percent met the total recommended amount of exercise, with the ones most likely to exercise being those between the ages of 18 and 24. Men were more likely to get enough exercise than women, but only 23 percent of men reported exercising 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity or a combination of the two.
An inactive person runs a greater risk of developing health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease over time. One study linked a sedentary lifestyle to the above problems, as well as breast and colon cancer, estimating that 5.3 million deaths each year are a result of physical inactivity. This number is comparable to the number caused every year by smoking.
How Much Exercise Are You Getting?
While the CDC survey monitored the amount of exercise people reported doing outside of work, work heavily factors in for most people, with the amount of exercise people getting varying widely depending on what they do for a living. The good news for people in our industry is that manufacturing workers get, on average, far more exercise than do office workers. Factory workers walk about 3.9 miles per day or 9,900 steps - more than retail sales staff, teachers, and much more than the average American who walks only 5,117 steps on average, with men a bit more active than women.
The question, then, is: How many steps counts as the “moderate-intensity aerobic exercise” the CDC recommends for health? Researchers say 10,000 steps a day qualifies. This is approximately 5 miles of walking and by itself constitutes a moderately active day.
Most Americans are only getting about half that, however. In order to add more steps to your day, look for ways to be more active either at work or on your free time. Walking at lunch or during break time can make a big difference in the number of steps you take. Talking short walks in the morning and evening can also help as can parking farther away or using the stairs instead of the elevator. If you are not sure how much exercise you are getting, buy a cheap pedometer to track your steps throughout the day. Being aware of your own personal activity level is the first step in creating a healthier, more active lifestyle.
The good news is that simply adding more exercise can improve physical health, lower your stress level, help you get better sleep, and reduce your risk of chronic illness. Most Americans do not realize how sedentary they are compared to people in other areas of the world or their own ancestors. This is entirely fixable, though, and with a little extra effort, you can reach or exceed the goals the CDC sets for maintaining good health.