The number of overweight people in the U.S. is increasing at an alarming rate. Today, approximately one in three adults and one in four children are overweight. This dramatic increase in the number of overweight Americans is puzzling. As a nation, we consume less fat and fewer calories than 10 or 20 years ago. Because energy intake (i.e., food consumption) has not increased dramatically, energy output (i.e., exercise) deserves careful study.
A recent report by the Surgeon General noted that only 15 percent of U.S. adults engage in regular, vigorous activity in their leisure time (i.e., three times per week for 20 minutes or more). Moreover, 25 percent of adults report no physical activity at all in their leisure time. According to the report, women are less physically active than men, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans are less active than Caucasians, older adults are less active than younger adults, and less affluent individuals are less active than more affluent individuals.
The Role of Exercise in Weight Management
Regular physical activity plays an important role in long-term weight management. Of those who lose weight and keep it off, most report being physically active on a regular basis. In addition, adults who report never having a weight problem are more likely to be regular exercisers. The link between physical activity and weight management is important for several reasons.
Regular physical activity provides the following benefits:
- Increases caloric expenditure during activity
- Minimizes loss of muscle while dieting
- Increases resting metabolic rate
- Improves mood and overall feelings of well-being
- Counterbalances some of the negative health consequences associated with obesity
Most people who are trying to manage their weight recognize that engaging in regular physical activity is critical to their success. However, the reality is that few people exercise regularly. In the last decade, investigators have focused on the perceived barriers to physical activity, effective methods to increase the physically activity of Americans, and ways to help them maintain sufficient activity levels throughout their lives.
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