It’s no surprise that Americans have struggled with their health over the years. Despite our preoccupation with all things health and wellness, the United States didn’t even make USA Today’s recent Healthiest Countries list. Countries such as Italy and Japan have access to fresher foods, eat smaller portions and live longer. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that nearly 30 percent of Americans live inactive lifestyles.
One of the primary studies assessing the state of U.S. fitness is the aptly named American Fitness Index. Released earlier this month, the 2018 American Fitness Index provides a number of insights into our country’s health and wellness habits—both overall and in terms of the healthiest metro areas.
Here are the key findings from this recent study, plus a few other shocking statistics about America’s fitness and health habits (or, in some cases, lack thereof).
The 2018 American Fitness Index at a glance
In the 2017 American Fitness Index, Minneapolis, Minnesota was named the healthiest city in America. Minneapolis had higher areas of excellence than any other city, including a larger percentage of citizens in excellent or good health, more residents who got 7+ hours of sleep, lower death rates for cardiovascular disease, lower percentages of diabetes diagnoses, and more dog parks, farmers markets, recreational centers, park centers and playgrounds per capita than any other city. Not bad for a city with some of the harshest winters around.
In the 2018 American Fitness Index, Arlington, Virginia knocked Minneapolis out of its spot to become the new healthiest city in the U.S. How did Arlington do it? Low smoking rates, great local parks and 49 miles of paved trails. More than 50% of Arlington residents are either in excellent or very good health.
Madison, Wisconsin might not have come out on top, but the college town ranked first in the percent of residents who have exercised in the last 30 days. Overall, more than 75% of adults in the nation’s 100 biggest cities reported that they exercised in the last month, but just 22% met guidelines for both aerobic and strength training.
Other shocking statistics about American diet and exercise
Although the American Fitness Index is considered a key annual study, researchers are constantly dissecting the U.S. diet and fitness landscape—producing key findings that can be shocking at times. Here are a few worth knowing about.
In one study, more than 90 percent of high school students in America said they didn’t exercise enough to stay fit and healthy.
America is ranked 46th on the list of the world’s most inactive countries. But the fact that we made the list alone is nothing to brag about. Other countries on the list include Malta, known as the “laziest city in the world,” and Swaziland, where about 69% of residents are inactive.
America is home to more than 36,000 health clubs.
U.S. kids now spend more than seven and a half hours in front of a screen, whether through computers, televisions or video games. Nearly one-third of high school students play video games for three or more hours—and that’s just on an average school day.
Since the 1970s, the number of fast-food restaurants in the U.S. has more than doubled.
More than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in food deserts—areas that are more than a mile away from a supermarket.
About 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet; that’s almost the entire country. Even worse, the current federal guideline recommends less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, while Americans are eating an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day.
In the U.S., obesity-related illnesses, including chronic diseases, disability and death, are estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.
And the unhealthiness just seems to be getting worse. The prevalence of obesity in children between ages two and five has doubled since the 1970s. For children between ages six to 11, it has quadrupled; for ages 12 to 19 the likeliness of becoming obese has tripled. Recent reports also project that by 2030, half of all Americans will be obese.
The latest research on the American diet and fitness landscape might seem depressing at first glance. But with the rise of organic foods, the wellness craze and the booming supplement industry, more Americans than ever are taking their health into their own hands. And with cities like Arlington and Minneapolis paving the way, there’s never been more motivation to get fit in America.