Sugar and Sweat: The Challenge for Adults (Not Kids)

Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD


June 05, 2013

In This Article
Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD
Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia; Past President, American College of Physicians


This issue of Staying Well takes a look at the latest contribution from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the state of our nation's sugar and sweat balance: "Consumption of Added Sugars Among US Adults, 2005-2010,"[1] published in the May issue of the National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, and "Adult Participation in Aerobic and Muscle-Strengthening Physical Activities -- United States, 2011,"[2] published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. A closer look reveals we have much work to do on both fronts.

Sweat: Only 1 in 5 Adults Do Enough

If only 1 in 5 adults (20.6%) get enough exercise, that means that nearly 80% of adults don't get enough.[2]

The federal physical activity recommendations are biphasic and not really very time-intensive. They require at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week (a little over 20 minutes a day) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, along with muscle strengthening exercise at least twice a week.[3]

These numbers are based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a yearly state-based telephone survey of adults aged 18 years or older. Apparently, more of us like to move than lift. Although more than one half of adults fulfilled the aerobic requirements, less than one third made the muscle-strengthening cut. Women, Hispanics, older adults, and those already obese were less likely to have exercised enough. Higher level of education increased the odds of meeting fitness goals. College graduates were more likely to have met the aerobic and muscle-strengthening goals. Underweight or normal-weight individuals were more likely to have met the fitness goals than those who were overweight or obese.[2]

Overall exercise rates varied by state and region. At 23.5%, the West won first place in both exercise categories, with the Northeast coming in second. At the bottom were the South (where I live) and the Midwest. The state with the best track record of meeting exercise requirements was Colorado, at 27.3%. The worst states for exercising in both categories were West Virginia and Tennessee, both at 12.7%.[2]


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