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What percent of Americans are fit?

Physical Inactivity and Cardiovascular Disease

Physical inactivity is a term used to identify people who do not get the recommended level of regular physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times peer week to promote cardiovascular fitness. In 1996 the Report of the Surgeon General on Physical Activity and Health recommended the minimum level of physical activity required to achieve health benefits was a daily expenditure of 150 kilocalories in moderate or vigorous activities. This recommendation is consistent with guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American College of Sports Medicine. It also is consistent with the 1996 consensus statement from the National Institutes of Health, recommending adults to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Moderate activities include pleasure walking, climbing stairs, gardening, yard work, moderate-to-heavy housework, dancing and home exercise. More vigorous aerobic activities, such as brisk walking running, swimming, bicycling, roller skating and jumping rope — done three or four times a week for 30-60 minutes — are best for improving the fitness of the heart and lungs.

What are the consequences of physical inactivity for cardiovascular disease (CVD)?

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying prematurely from CVD. It also helps prevent the development of diabetes, helps maintain weight loss, and reduces hypertension, which are all independent risk factors for CVD. Less active, less fit persons have a 30-50 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure. Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for CVD itself. It ranks similarly to cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. One reason it has such a large affect on mortality is because of its prevalence. Twice as many adults in the United States are physically inactive than smoke cigarettes. Regular physical activity has been shown to help protect against first cardiac episode, help patients’ recovery from coronary surgeries, and will reduce the risk of recurrent cardiac events.

How large is the problem of physical inactivity in the United States?

It is estimated that approximately 35% of coronary heart disease mortality is due to physical inactivity. The significance of this relationship lies in the fact that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States with over 700,000 deaths annually. Approximately 60% of all Americans age 18 and older report that they are physically inactive. Physical inactivity has a major economic impact. It is felt through the loss of income and productivity when disabling diseases result. It was estimated that in 1989 physical inactivity cost the nation $5.7 billion due to hospitalizations and other related health care costs.

What segments of the population are physically inactive?

Only about 22 percent of Americans report regular sustained physical activity (activity of any intensity lasting 30 minutes or more 5 times a week). Fifteen percent of Americans report vigorous activity (activity intense enough to make the heart beat fast and hard breathing for at least 20 minutes or more 3 times a week). Thus, improvements in physical activity can be gained in all segments of society. Physical inactivity is more prevalent among women, blacks and Hispanics, older adults and the less affluent. People with less than a 12 th grade education are also more likely to be sedentary. In addition, people who are physically disabled, people with injures that limit movement, adolescents, adults who are overweight, women, and people with low incomes all have elevated levels of sedentary behavior.

Facts and statistics about physical inactivity in NYS:

BRFSS Reported levels of Physical Activity

Sedentary Lifestyle: no reported activity or any physical activity or pair of activities done for less than 20 minutes or less than three times per week.

Regular and Sustained: any physical activity or pair of physical activities that are done for 30 minutes or more per session, five or more times per week, regardless of intensity.

Regular and Vigorous: any physical activity or pair of activities done for at least 20 minutes, at least three times per week, that requires rhythmic contraction of large muscle groups at 50% of functional capacity.

  • 59% of the New York population reported a sedentary lifestyle
    • 58% of men
    • 60% of women
    • The nonwhite population had a 6% higher level of sedentary lifestyle
    • 21% of men
    • 19% of women
    • The nonwhite population had a 4% higher level of regular and sustained physical activity
    • 13% of men
    • 15% of women
    • The nonwhite population had a 5% higher level of regular and vigorous physical activity

    Fewer than 1 in 4 American adults get enough exercise, CDC report finds

    Minnesota ranked ninth in physical activity by adults, with 27.7 percent of the state’s residents meeting the federal guidelines. Colorado ranked No. 1.

    By Susan Perry | MinnPost contributing writer

    July 3, 2018

    Less than a quarter of American adults — 22.9 percent — get the minimum amount of exercise recommended by federal guidelines, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    That percentage surpasses — barely — the U.S. government’s Healthy People 2020 target goal of 20.1 percent. Yet, as the CDC report also notes, the extent to which U.S. adults get enough exercise depends a lot on what state they live in, what their gender is and whether or not they’re working.

    Minnesotans are, on average, better about exercising than people living in most other states, although we’re not at the top of the list.

    Those bragging rights go to Colorado.

    Why it matters

    For the study, CDC researchers used data collected from the 2010-2015 National Health Interview Survey in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As part of the survey, respondents are asked questions about health-related activities, including how much physical activity they get.

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    Federal physical activity guidelines recommend that adults aged 18 to 64 engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week, as well as twice-weekly muscle-strengthening activities.

    People who meet those guidelines are at significantly lower risk for a variety of chronic medication conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and certain types of cancer. They’re also less likely to develop a disability or to die prematurely.

    What was found

    The CDC study found that while 22.9 percent of adults nationally met the federal physical activity guidelines, the percentage varied widely by state, from a low of 13.5 percent in Mississippi to a high of 31.5 percent in Colorado.

    Minnesota ranked ninth, with 27.7 percent of the state’s residents meeting the federal guidelines.

    The CDC researchers say they were surprised that many of the states with the highest percentages of meeting the guidelines were in “cold weather” states.

    “How are people in these states meeting these guidelines during the colder winter months?” two of the researchers wrote in a National Center for Health Statistics blog post about the study. “Are they participating in outdoor winter sports, do they exercise at indoor facilities, or some combination of outdoor and indoor activities? Unfortunately we can’t answer these questions with our data, but it would be interesting to know.”

    The study also found that men were much more likely to work out than women. Nationally, 27.2 percent of men (ranging from 17.7 percent in South Dakota to 40.3 percent in the District of Columbia) and 18.7 percent of women (ranging from 9.7 percent in Mississippi to 31.5 percent in Colorado) got the minimum recommended amount of exercise.

    NCHS, National Health Interview Survey, 2010-2015

    Age-adjusted percentages of adults aged 18–64 who met both aerobic and muscle-strengthening federal guidelines through leisure-time physical activity, by state: United States, 2010–2015

    Minnesota’s percentages were closer to the top end for both genders: 31.1 percent of Minnesotan men and 24.3 percent of Minnesotan women met the federal guidelines.

    When people’s work status was taken into account, both men and women with jobs were more likely to exercise than their nonworking peers.

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    That wasn’t true everywhere, however — including in Minnesota. A higher proportion (32.8 percent) of nonworking men in the state met the federal physical activity guidelines than did working men (30.5 percent).

    Minnesota’s working women, on the other hand, were significantly more likely than its nonworking women to meet the guidelines (26.8 percent vs. 15.0 percent).

    Limitations and implications

    The study comes with caveats, of course. Most notably, the data included exercise done only during “leisure time,” or nonworking hours. Participants weren’t asked about physical activity done in the workplace or while commuting, and so those forms of activity were not measured. As the CDC researchers point out, people whose physical activity fits into those two categories may be less likely to engage in leisure-time physical activity.

    Although active modes of commuting to work, such as walking or biking, has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and early death, on-the-job physical activity has not. In fact, as I reported in Second Opinion earlier this year, men with physically strenuous jobs may be at a higher risk of early death than men with sedentary jobs.

    The health effects of occupational physical activity appear to be different from those of leisure-time physical activity — a phenomenon known as the “physical activity paradox.”

    The study did find that states with higher percentages of professionals and managers relative to production workers were more likely to have higher percentages of working adults that met the federal physical activity guidelines.

    Minnesota has the fourth-highest percentage of men (20.8 percent) and the sixth-highest percentage of women (22.4 percent) with professional jobs, according to the study’s data.

    “The choices that Americans make regarding both their occupation and state of residence can have very real consequences for their morbidity, disability, and mortality,” the CDC researchers conclude.

    FMI: You can read the CDC’s report online. You’ll find information on how to incorporate more physical activity into your daily life on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s website.

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    Up to 75 Percent of US Youth Ineligible for Military Service

    Military Sevices

    Robert Longley is a U.S. government and history expert with over 30 years of experience in municipal government and urban planning.

    Updated on September 02, 2021

    About 75 percent of America’s 17- to 24-year-olds were ineligible for military service due to lack of education, obesity, and other physical problems, or criminal history in 2009, according to a report issued by the Mission: Readiness group. Since Congress ended the military draft in 1973, the U.S. armed services depend on a constant flow of new volunteers every year. While that figure has since dropped to 71 percent, the problems with military recruiting remain the same.

    Military Eligibility Key Takeaways

    • At least 71 percent of Americans between 17 and 24 are now ineligible to serve in the military—some 24 million of the 34 million people in that age range.
    • The strength of the U.S. military depends on a constant flow of qualified volunteers.
    • National security is directly compromised by manpower shortages in the armed forces.

    Just Not Smart Enough

    In its report, Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve, Mission: Readiness — a group of retired military and civilian military leaders — found that one in four young people between 17 and 24 does not have a high school diploma. About 30 percent of those who do, states the report, still fail the Armed Forces Qualification Test, the entrance test required to join the US military. Another one in ten young people cannot serve because of past convictions for felonies or serious misdemeanors, states the report.

    Obesity and Other Health Problems Wash Many Out

    A full 27 percent of young Americans are simply too overweight to join the military, says Mission: Readiness. «Many are turned away by recruiters and others never try to join. Of those who attempt to join, however, roughly 15,000 young potential recruits fail their entrance physicals every year because they are too heavy.»

    Nearly 32 percent have other disqualifying health problems, including asthma, eyesight or hearing problems, mental health issues, or recent treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

    Due to all of the above and other assorted problems, only about two out of 10 American young people are fully eligible to join the military without special waivers, according to the report.
    «Imagine ten young people walking into a recruiter’s office and seven of them getting turned away,» said former Under Secretary of the Army Joe Reeder in a press release. «We cannot allow today’s dropout crisis to become a national security crisis.»

    The Obesity Issue

    In 2015, then-Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet, the commanding general of Army Recruiting Command, called the obesity issue “the most troubling because the trend is going in the wrong direction.”

    Recruiting challenges caused by obesity often put pressure on the military to compensate by enlisting otherwise ineligible candidates. The Defense Department uses its Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to identify a candidate’s knowledge and ability to perform military roles. It classifies candidates into categories from I (the highest) to V (the lowest.) The military prefers to take recruit from categories I-III, but if necessity demands, will take up to 4% from Category IV. During 2017, the U.S. Army recruited nearly 2 percent of its new members, over a thousand soldiers, from Category IV. While these are good people who want to serve their country, history has shown that they do not perform as well.

    “Category IV soldiers present several problems,” according to Dennis Laich, a retired Army major general who wrote Skin in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots. “First, they are less likely to complete initial training or their initial term of enlistment. Second, they are more difficult to train because of lower cognitive skills and literacy. Third, they are less effective. . Finally, training and leading these Category IV soldiers is difficult and time-consuming for our Army’s already overburdened company grade officers and NCOs.”

    Post-Recession Military Recruiting Goals in Jeopardy

    Clearly, what worries the members of Mission: Readiness — and the Pentagon — is that faced with this ever-shrinking pool of qualified young people, the US military branches will no longer be able to meet their recruiting goals once the economy recovers and non-military jobs return.
    «Once the economy begins to grow again, the challenge of finding enough high-quality recruits will return,» states the report. «Unless we help more young people get on the right track today, our future military readiness will be put at risk.»

    «The armed services are meeting recruitment targets in 2009, but those of us who have served in command roles are worried about the trends we see,» said Rear Admiral James Barnett (USN, Ret.), in a press release. «Our national security in the year 2030 is absolutely dependent on what’s going on in pre-kindergarten today. We urge Congress to take action on this issue this year.»

    Making Them Smarter, Better, Sooner

    The «action» Rear Admiral Barnett wants Congress to take is to pass the Early Learning Challenge Fund Act (H.R. 3221), which would pump over $10 billion into the slate of early education reforms proposed by the Obama administration in July of 2009.

    Reacting to the report, then Sec. of Education Arne Duncan said the support of the Mission: Readiness group demonstrates how important early childhood development is for the country.
    «I am proud to be joining these senior retired admirals and generals who have served our nation with courage and distinction,» Sec. Duncan said. «We know that investing in high-quality early learning programs helps more young children enter school with the skills they need to be successful. That is why this administration has proposed a new investment in early childhood development through the Early Learning Challenge Fund.»

    In its report, the retired admirals and generals of Mission: Readiness cite research studies showing that children who benefit from early childhood education are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and avoid crime as adults.

    «Commanders in the field have to trust that our soldiers will respect authority, work within the rules and know the difference between right and wrong,» said Major General James A. Kelley (USA, Ret.). «Early learning opportunities help instill the qualities that make better citizens, better workers and better candidates for uniformed service.»

    Stressing that early education is about more than learning to read and count, the report states, «Young children also need to learn to share, wait their turn, follow directions, and build relationships. This is when children begin to develop a conscience — differentiating right from wrong — and when they start learning to stick with a task until it is completed.»

    Some Improvement by 2017

    In 2017, the Pentagon reported that 71 percent of young Americans between 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve in the United States military. While an improvement since 2009, this still means that over 24 million of the 34 million people of the eligible age group cannot serve in the armed forces.

    The Pentagon continues to stress the situation’s alarming threat to national security. As former commander of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Major General Mark Brilakis stated, “There are 30 some million 17- to 24 year-olds out there, but by the time you get all the way down to those that are qualified, you’re down to less than a million young Americans.”

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