Americans Missing The Boat on Fitness

According to a national survey released by the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association, Americans are inadequate when it comes to health and fitness. Fitness American Style II was a follow-up trial to a 2001 study of how and why Americans exercise. The researchers polled 1,400 men and women to uncover the trends behind Americans' understanding of health and fitness.

The findings are particularly relevant in light of these statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; more than 50 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical activity; and 25 percent get practically no exercise at all.

While the future of America looms large, the Style II study revealed that many Americans are not worried about their health. Of those surveyed, 70 percent reported being "completely or somewhat satisfied" with their physical health. Only 30 percent said that losing weight was "essential."

"It's alarming that even though most Americans are overweight and inactive, they seem to be completely out of touch with the reality of obesity," said John McCarthy, executive director of the association.

As the percentage of overweight Americans rises to an all-time high, the popular notion of "health" has tipped along with the scales. Over-weight seems to be the new "norm" in America, whereas the concept of healthy and fit is becoming more uncommon. In fact, the importance of maintaining physical appearance has decreased for both men and women since 2001, a somewhat daunting proposition.

Is Food the Next Big Addiction?
More than 75 percent of Americans say that obesity is a serious problem. In fact, they say that being overweight is more unhealthy than drinking three or more alcoholic drinks or smoking a few cigarettes a day. However, with obesity rates on the rise, Americans must be in the "denial" stage of addiction.

Although nearly every person surveyed said that maintaining good physical health is essential and believed that exercise plays a major role in health, more than two thirds of the American population are over-weight and lead sedentary lifestyles. This reveals a huge "disconnect" between the behaviors and beliefs of Americans in terms of health and fitness.

"People care about their health on paper, but when it comes to taking action, it's easier to just make excuses," stated Mr. McCarthy.

Obesity: Social Stigma or Health Crisis?
Older Americans are more likely to say that obesity is a social problem; younger generations are more likely to say that it is a health care problem. This suggests that, in the future, obesity will be addressed directly with medical treatment.

According to a 2004 study in the journal Obesity Research, taxpayers paid for more than half of obesity-related medical costs, which reached a total of $75 billion in 2003. As the younger generation turns to health clubs to become fit, there is hope that the public burden of obesity-related medical costs will decrease.

Holistic Health Replaces Physical Fitness
Emotional well-being topped American's priority list (97 percent), although many continue to say that maintaining good physical health is also essential or important (96 percent). The survey revealed a trend toward an overall well-being that incorporates both physical and emotional health. Attitudes toward the importance of money and career rank significantly below physical health and overall well-being at 75 and 78 percent, respectively, giving a new twist to the "me" mentality.

Current health club members cited the holistic benefits of exercise. They said that they felt better after a workout than they did before (63 percent) and that exercise had a positive effect on their overall physical health (57 percent), physical appearance (52 percent), self-confidence (50 percent), and fun or enjoyment (50 percent). Members also said that fitness was just a part of their overall approach to maintaining good health (49 percent).

Share this with your friends