Let's face it, on average, Americans don't have a reputation for being incredibly fit. The U.S.A. brought the world fast food and car culture, after all. No wonder we're known as the obesity capital of the world.
So if I told you most Americans don't live a healthy lifestyle, I don't think you'd exactly have to scrape your jaw off the floor. Still, I'm betting that the details of a massive new study into the health habits of Americans might manage to surprise you.
For the research, which was recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a team of scientists out of Oregon State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga analyzed a trove of data of nearly 5,0000 Americans collected by the CDC. Their aim was to determine what percentage of us actually maintain a healthy lifestyle. How many Americans do you think made the grade?
The correct answer: 2.7 percent.
What counts as a healthy lifestyle?
See, I told you I could shock you. But wait, you might protest, what sort of standards were these researchers using? Did you need to be a vegan CrossFit enthusiast to qualify as healthy?
Sadly, no. In order to make the grade you simply had to eat a balanced diet, manage 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, meet the recommendation for body fat (under 20 percent for men and 30 for women), and not smoke. And it's also worth noting that the data came from careful tracking of participants rather than self-reports, so it's considered especially reliable.
The research team themselves thought they were aiming fairly low, and seem surprised by the results."This is sort of mind boggling. There's clearly a lot of room for improvement," commented Ellen Smit, one of the study co-authors.
On the slightly more positive side, it should be noted that far larger portions of Americans were healthy-ish, meeting some of the criteria but not all (just 11 percent of the population was in the shameful category of being unhealthy on all measures). 34 percent met one, 37 percent met two and 16 percent met three. So that's something.
There were also some noteworthy demographic differences. Women were less likely to smoke. Hispanics were more likely to have a healthy diet. Those over 60, unsurprisingly, were less active (but also less likely to smoke or eat unhealthily), etc.
Still, the bright spots in this study seem few and far between. The bottom line takeaway is undeniable: Americans have A LOT of work to do when it comes to fighting obesity and getting fit.
Would your lifestyle be deemed healthy by the standards of this study?