Americans are stuck in chairs and on the couch, spending eight hours a day with their metabolic engines barely idling, according to data from sensors that scientists put on nearly 2,600 people to see what they did all day.
Obese women averaged about 11 seconds a day at vigorous exercise, while men and women of normal weight exercised vigorously (a jog or brisk uphill hike) for less than two minutes a day, according to the study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
If you included moderate exercise, such as yoga or golf, folks of normal weight logged about 2.5 to 4 hours weekly. In part, that’s good news: federal recommendations for adults include 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity coupled with muscle-strengthening exercise.
Still, the data sketch a nearly supine population profile, with days marked by long hours of sedentary behavior, particularly for those who are overweight or obese.
“We’ve engineered physical activity out of our daily lives and that’s causing the health disparities that we have in this country,” said the study’s lead author, Edward C. Archer, a nutrition and obesity researcher at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. “How you spend your day determines whether you store your food as fat or store your food in your muscle, healthfully.”
The data part of a study testing whether an indirect measure of energy expenditure, based on metabolism of water, stood up to other measurements in the field – or on the couch, as it turns out. It did, and depressingly so.
For the obese, the study confirms that they are stuck in a “vicious cycle” of inactivity and weight gain, said Archer.