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American Adults Must Step it Up by Walking More

  • Published: 2010-10-04 : American College of Sports Medicine.
  • Synopsis: U.S. adults take thousands fewer daily steps than foreign counterparts.

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American Adults Must Step it Up - U.S. adults take thousands fewer daily steps than foreign counterparts, survey says.

American adults take fewer daily steps than their counterparts in Switzerland, Australia and Japan, according to research published in the Oct. 2010 Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. While adults in western Australia, Japan and Switzerland averaged 9,695, 7,168 and 9,650 daily steps, respectively, this new study found that U.S. adults lag far behind, averaging just 5,117 steps per day.

The study, titled "Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults," gathered step data from 1,136 U.S. adults who varied in age, gender and geographic location. Researchers compared the step results with data from similar studies conducted in Australia, Japan and Switzerland to conclude that Americans are far less physically active than individuals from other developed countries.

In order to shrink this ever-widening fitness gap and match the physical activity levels of Australian, Japanese and Swiss adults, experts recommend that U.S. adults add 30 to 40 minutes of walking to their physical activity regimen each day.

"The health benefits of walking are under-appreciated," said Dr. David R. Bassett, Jr., the lead author of this study. "Even modest amounts of walking, if performed on a daily basis, can help to maintain a healthy body weight."

The study's findings offer key reasons why obesity rates are much higher in the United States than in other developed countries. In the past ten years, Australia, Japan and Switzerland have reported obesity rates of 16 percent, 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively. In the United States, however, a whopping 34 percent of adults are obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30.

"The results of our study are reasonably consistent with data from surveys of travel behavior," said Dr. Bassett. "In Switzerland and Japan, a much higher percentage of trips are taken by walking, compared to the United States. This is reflected in their greater daily step counts, and the additional walking seems to have an enormous public health benefit for those countries."

In addition to comparing American physical activity levels with other countries, the study also compared participants to each other. The study also found that, on average, American men take more steps than American women. While male participants averaged 5,340 steps per day, female participants averaged only 4,912 steps per day. Additionally, single participants accumulated significantly more steps (averaging 6,076) than married or widowed participants (averaging 4,793 and 3,394 respectively).

Participants in this survey first completed an online interview that recorded their attitudes and behaviors relating to physical activity, nutrition and health. Participants then received pedometers with instructions for use and were instructed to wear the pedometer for all waking hours for two consecutive days and to submit their step results via an online survey.

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 40,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 42, No. 10, pages 1819-1825) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 127 or 133. Visit ACSM online at www.acsm.org.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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