60% of US adults don’t do ANY muscle-strengthening exercises –
despite guidelines saying sit-ups and push-ups should be done twice a week
- About 58 percent of US adults perform no muscle-strengthening exercise
- Federal physical activity guidelines recommend two days a week of strength training
- Only 35 percent of men and 26 percent of women meet the recommendations
Almost 60 percent of American adults don’t do any muscle-strengthening exercises, according to the first ever data collected on this subject.
US guidelines say exercises like push-ups, weight-lifting and sit-ups should be done at least twice a week, if not more, to maintain good health and lower the risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
But data on nearly 400,000 adults across the US show that just one-third of men and one-quarter of women comply.
The researchers, led by the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, say muscle-strengthening exercises have not been as widely promoted as aerobic exercises by health professionals.
The team looked at data from the US 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is a survey conducted via telephone by the CDC and state health departments.
They looked at the answers for nearly 400,000 adults between ages 18 and 80.
Participants were asked how many times during the past week they engaged in muscle-strengthening exercise.
According to the latest update of the government’s physical activity guidelines, adults are recommended to include two days a week of muscle-strengthening exercise.
This is a type of exercise that uses resistance to build strength, endurance and muscle mass. Qualifying activities include weight-lifting, sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, squats or climbing at an incline.
About 30 percent of the participants overall – 35 percent of men and 26 percent of women – met the recommendations.
Nearly 58 percent – or three in five – of the adults reported that they did no muscle-strengthening exercises (MSE).
Factors significantly associated with lower odds of following the guidelines included older age, lower income, lower education and being overweight or obese.
When compared with the adults that did no exercise, those who did muscle-strengthening lowered their odds for several health problems including diabetes, cancer and obesity.
‘This study is among the first to show that most US adults do not engage in MSE,’ said lead investigator Dr Jason Bennie, a senior research fellow at the University of Southern Queensland.
‘We also demonstrate that as few as one or two MSE sessions a week result in fewer reported health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer, even after accounting for aerobic exercise levels.’
The benefits of regular strength-training exercises have been widely reported from increasing skeletal muscle mass to protected bone health to elevated mood.
Moreover, previous studies have shown that strength-training can improve blood sugar levels and blood pressure, as well as reduce anxiety.
They say their findings are the first to show the level of participation among US adults and that understanding the prevalence of these behaviors can help doctors determine when intervention is necessary.
The team says that both health professionals and public health officials need to target strength training promotion just as much as aerobic exercise promotion.
‘We hope that these findings put MSE front and center on the agenda as a key health behavior in the prevention and management of chronic diseases,’ Dr Bennie said.
It comes on the heels of a study published last month that found almost half of US adults do absolutely no exercise.
The University of Pennsylvania team also found that that 26 percent of US adults sit for more than eight hours despite the numerous health risks.
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