Increase In Exercise Not Bringing US Obesity Rates Down
July 11, 2013

Increase In Exercise Not Bringing US Obesity Rates Down

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Americans are exercising more but the increased physical activity is having little impact on the rising obesity epidemic, according to researchers from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

Despite the reported increase in physical activity between the years of 2001 and 2009, the study authors reported the percentage of the population considered to be clinically obese did not decrease. In fact, it actually increased during that eight-year period, according to two different studies published Wednesday in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Population Health Metrics.

"Around the country, you can see huge increases in the percentage of people becoming physically active, which research tells us is certain to have health benefits," explained IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. "If communities in the US can replicate this success and tackle the ongoing obesity impact, it will see more substantial health gains."

On a national scale, physical activity increased more amongst women than men, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Noam N. Levey. The percentage of female Americans spending an adequate amount of time exercising increased from 46.7 percent to 51.3 percent, while the percentage of physically active male Americans increased by just one percentage point, to 57.8 percent, the IHME study revealed.

Dr. Murray, who was the lead author of the study, told Levey there had been "a lot of progress" when it comes to US residents working out more, and that exercise was needed in order to help tackle obesity. However, he also said the results of the research demonstrate "we probably also need to do more" and "just counting on physical activity is not going to be the solution."

A separate IHME study, published Wednesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), revealed the US was falling behind its economic peers in terms of overall health, and poor diet was the primary factor contributing to that phenomenon.

"Although Americans are living longer, with overall US life expectancy increasing to 78.2 in 2010 from 75.2 in 1990, increases in psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and conditions that cause back, muscle and joint pain mean many do not feel well enough to enjoy those added years of life," wrote Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters.

The study included estimates for death and disability associated with 291 diseases, conditions and injuries, as well as 67 other risk factors. It compared two decades worth of health data from several different surveys, studies and death certificates in the US and high-income nations in Europe, Asia and North America. Overall, America fell in the rankings in nearly every major health measure from 1990 through 2010, according to Steenhuysen.

"Compared to other high-income countries, US health outcomes are pretty mediocre," Dr. Murray said.

He and his colleagues report the leading causes of premature death in the US still include heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. However, suicide and road-related injuries were also ranked among the leading causes of early death in the US, according to Reuters. Poor diet was found to be the top cause of poor health, followed by tobacco use, obesity and high blood pressure, the news agency added.

The new studies were completed at the request of first lady Michelle Obama, and were presented to city and county officials at an invitation-only event at the White House. The research is part of the Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign -- an initiative focused on improving the country's overall health, according to various reports.