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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Americans Struggle to Stay Fit During Pandemic

As most of you know by now, I am a huge advocate of exercise as medicine. You also probably know that there is a mountain of evidence supporting a long list of benefits of regular exercise. Things such as increased strength and muscle mass, increased cardiovascular fitness and endurance, an improved immune system, and an

As most of you know by now, I am a huge advocate of exercise as medicine. You also probably know that there is a mountain of evidence supporting a long list of benefits of regular exercise. Things such as increased strength and muscle mass, increased cardiovascular fitness and endurance, an improved immune system, and an increased bone mass. In addition, since the pandemic hit full force, we have been bombarded with advertisements for canoes, kayaks, outdoor bikes, exercise equipment, and nutritional supplements. There have also been numerous articles and news stories, some of them mine, about the increase in people getting outside to hike, bike, exercise, and enjoy the fresh air. I have also personally witnessed the increase in the popularity of things such as online fitness training since people seem to be avoiding the gym. With all of the known benefits of exercise, combined with the increased flexibility of most work schedules and the increased popularity and awareness of exercise, common sense would tell us that more people are exercising these days. Sadly, some research contradicts this notion, at least in the US.

A recent survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Herbalife and The Council on Responsible Nutrition found that Americans lagged behind many industrialized countries when it came to exercise, energy levels, and overall well-being. The study involved 13,000 people in 24 countries from across the globe. Of the 13,000 people in the poll, 2,000 were from the United States. 89% of the people in the study responded that they are currently taking steps to improve their health, many of whom claim that the pandemic was a major motivator for them to start taking better care of themselves. The changes that respondents listed as areas in greatest need for improvement were getting more sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet.

On average, however, Americans do not seem to be doing quite as well as those from other countries. For example, when asked if they could run or exercise longer without feeling winded, 56% of non-Americans responded yes, compared to 32% from the US. 53% of those from other countries responded that they have more energy throughout the day since the pandemic began, compared to 27% of US respondents. 47% of non-Americans feel stronger and more in shape, compared to 21% of American respondents. It would seem that, unlike people from other developed countries, Americans are not using this unique environment to get into shape.

My question was, why? Why aren’t more people taking up exercise, improving their energy levels, getting stronger, and boosting their immune systems? Clearly, the benefits of exercise are overwhelming. Is it lack of motivation, lack of accountability, or simply that most people don’t know where to begin? With so many people taking steps to become healthier, what happened to the US? Public health and exercise psychology are complicated issues, and obviously, there exist specific barriers to getting in shape, such as time to exercise. Some of those who responded to the survey said they set out to exercise more, cook healthier meals, and some downloaded fitness apps. Others began walking at lunch and taking vitamins in an effort to become healthier. But Americans seem to be doing this less often than people from around the globe.

Though many of us are still working from home and have more flexibility with our schedules, we might be actually spending more hours working than when we worked from an office. Liquor sales are up 20% when compared to pre-pandemic levels, and take-out food has never been easier. All of which are obvious barriers to leading a healthy lifestyle.

Now that we understand the issue a little better, maybe we can come up with some solutions. For example, while most of us would site lack of time as a major barrier to exercising regularly, most of us are able to grab a quick daily workout. A short walk at lunch, a few minutes on an exercise mat, a short dumbbell workout in the garage — there is always something we can do. Want to eat better? Try keeping a food diary. You would be shocked how often we grab things to eat throughout the day because we are bored and hardly notice what we put in our mouths. Also, plan healthy meals ahead of time. We are in Central PA, after all, and farm stands are everywhere. Try to eat seasonal produce and stick with whole foods. If it comes in a box, you probably don’t want it.

There are always things we can do to become healthier and to take better care of ourselves. We only have one body, and the responsibility is ours alone to take care of it. Health doesn’t need to be complicated as most health issues come back to exercise, diet, and stress management. So, fit in, exercise wherever you can, eat healthy meals made with whole foods, and manage your stress. You’ll have more energy, be able to do the things that give you joy, and overall, live a greater quality of life.

For more information about fitness or personal fitness training, feel free to contact Dave at Dave.bellomo@gmail.com.

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