What’s Behind American’s Lack of Fitness?

For more weeks than I’d like to admit, my update on all things fitness has been absent. Instead, I have lamented the fast pace of life while also thriving on all the activity.

I’m not alone. Like many other Americans, I know the basics of health. More than anything else, I should be eating loads of fruits and vegetables. In addition, I should be working out vigorously at least three times a week. While I’ve been doing pretty well with fruits and vegetables, it would probably be beneficial to cut some more sugar from my like (damn my sweet tooth!). Fitness has just been at a standstill. I’ve started to use the same old excuses I hear from everyone else: “I’m too busy.”

Why do we do this to ourselves. Many, if not most, first world problems don’t happen overnight. Certain conditions may come on suddenly, but they are all a partial result of our lifestyle. Weight is the easiest thing to point out because it’s so visible. No one who is overweight or obese magically woke up one day at the weight they are. Their weight is a product of their lifestyle over time.

I’m told time and time again not to worry about my health. I have the metabolism of youth and should take advantage while I can. That doesn’t seem logical to me. My health is now. Who I am when I’m 30, 60 and 99 is being built today. We are all being built today. This isn’t news, so why are so many of us still not making time for fitness?

This photo, “Fitness First for Females” is copyright (c) 2014 The home of Fixers on Flickr and made available under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license
This photo, “Fitness First for Females” is copyright (c) 2014 The home of Fixers on Flickr and made available under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

I really wanted to find some stats to answer that question. Unfortunately, 10 minutes of Google searching did not find any numbers on why the Americans who don’t work out make that choice. The only number I found claimed 80% of Americans don’t get the recommended exercise.

There are three things I’ve tried to add back to my life: fitness, writing and cleaning my apartment. These all fell off my radar the past few months as the pace of life started to sprint through summer. A selfish part of me wants to prioritize writing, but addressing fitness has the potential to give me the energy and cognitive ability to be more successful on all fronts. If I’m being responsible with my time, that needs to be my focus.

With the summer sun shining down, I’m planning to start biking and rock climbing again. These activities have been sparse so far this summer and there is no excuse. Before I go buying some new home workout plan or join a new gym, I need to work with what I have. Besides, what could be more gratifying then reaching the top of a particularly hard wall?

Why do you think 80% of Americans don’t get adequate fitness? Are most Americans uneducated in this area of health or is there another reason? Why do so many people choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle even though most know the basics of health? What can be done to change that stat, so that most Americans get the fitness they need?

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22 thoughts on “What’s Behind American’s Lack of Fitness?”

  1. I go through phases with healthy living. I have to really want to do it. I also live cycling, climbing and swimming too, so it shouldn’t be a chore. It’s just finding the motivation after a day at work. Summer is a great time to get going though.

    1. That’s what it is. The last thing I want to do when I leave work is go to a gym or something. Usually, there’s an easy excuse waiting for me, like laundry, groceries or other necessities of life. I’ll figure it out somehow.

  2. Like many things that lead to success, people just don’t take the time to build good habits. Instead, they often take the easy way out and allow the bad habits to take over.
    We just bought a Vitamix machine for my family. Whereas we didn’t eat many vegetables before, now we’re all having veggie and fruit smoothies every night. This simple change has made a tremendous difference in our eating habits.

    1. I did that with breakfast. I bought myself a nutribullet and have smoothies every morning. It’s also why I think about juicing like Joe Cross for a week. It would help me fall in love with fruits and vegetables.

  3. The choice is not a conscious one; it’s a slide into what’s easy and convenient. Unhealthy food tends to be cheaper and easier to prepare (or need no preparation at all) so that’s what we go for — the path of least resistance.

    There’s also the fact that success in America is measured by money, so it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of “I don’t have time because I’m focused on my career.” Or substitute “family”, “school”, or whatever… fitness falls pretty far down the list for most of us. It takes a pretty big paradigm shift to devote the time to self-improvement that the culture wants us to use for consuming mass quantities of television and awful food.

    1. You’re probably right. In my own experience, I don’t think eating healthy is any more expensive in terms of buying things. It does require more time to prepare, though and many stops to the produce section since fresh stuff perishes fast.

      I’m of the opinion that if I don’t pay for it now, I’ll pay for it later. I’m betting if I spend time and money on health today, that I will devote less money to my health over a lifetime then I would going through surgeries, heart attacks and what ever prescriptions I’m given.

  4. I believe it’s because it’s harder! It’s hard lifestyle change and we are used to fast paced results, answers, everything. Lack of commitment and dedication. Wanting to drink more alcohol consciously than to say yes to healthy foods. It’s not easy, but we’re not extremely hard workers? I’m not sure… You go for what you really want and it’s simply not a major desire by many people. It’s important and very challenging.

    1. The reply I hear from people when I talk about health is “you have to die from something.” That seems so sad to me and almost selfish. Just because you don’t care how you die doesn’t mean friends and family want to watch you suffer or see you die an early death. There’s no way to prevent death, but at least with a healthy lifestyle we can do everything in our power to pass away peacefully.

  5. I know we should all be exercising several times a week. And some people love exercising, like some people love cleaning the house. But for those of us who don’t, maybe part of it is because a lot of us are working stressful jobs all day, and when we get home, we want to do something we actually enjoy, like read a good book, write a story, or watch a movie, for those blessed few hours before we go to sleep and then get up to do the same thing over and over again.

    1. The funny thing is, exercise and good health has been shown to reduce stress. Somehow, knowing that isn’t very motivating. There’s always tomorrow…

      The work/life balance in the country rarely does anything to be more motivating towards fitness, though. That’s one of the reasons why I love businesses that provide a free gym to their employees. At that point, you can convince yourself fitness is just a part of work.

  6. You are right that you need to get started early. From what I’ve read people who start young and keep it up are much healthier over time.

    For years I didn’t exercise because I felt like I didn’t have the time. You really have to make a commitment and it can be hard to even get started. I got started about the same time that my grandmother was doing some rehabilitation. I looked at the effort she put into it, And it gave me inspiration for my own efforts.

    1. I once read about a study done on fallen soldiers during the Korean Conflict. These were all 20-somethings in the prime of their life and already they were showing signs of heart diseases… more than 80% were. Youth may not show signs of unhealthy habits as much as older people, but health is still important. It all starts when you’re young. I’ve only recently got back into it, though.

  7. The fit lifestyle is easier to achieve when you’re rich. For a lot of Americans, affording gym memberships and healthy food, as well as the time to work out and cook, comes with sacrifices in other parts of their lives that they are just not willing to make. Unfortunately, they will pay the costs later in life, and the taxpayer might pay as well for allowing things to get this way in the first place.

    1. I don’t think living a healthy lifestyle is as expensive as people think, although it is time consuming. Buying more fresh produce then packaged products means spending more time preparing a meal and going to the store more often. It’s certainly easier said than done.

  8. Great topic 🙂 Many lives in America are not set up to be healthy and fit. We are bombarded with junk food everywhere we go that is affordable and easily accessible. Depending on where you live, there may not be parks or other places to run, walk, or play sports. Quite possibly, many of us have a distorted view on what we need to do to be healthy, such as we need to go to the gyms to get fit and since we can’t afford to go to the gym, we can’t get fit vs choosing to be active in any way possible (i.e. walk or bike to nearby places instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator).

    1. “Quite possibly, many of us have a distorted view on what we need to do to be healthy.”

      I think this gets to the heart of the problem. I remember talking to my grandmother, whose doctor had just told her to eat more Greek Yogurt for the active bacteria in it that promotes digestion. When I opened her fridge, I saw fat-free Yoplait Greek yogurt. There were not active cultures on the ingredient list, meaning, while my grandmother thought she was following the doctor’s orders for her health, she was mistaken.

      I think there are a lot of things like that in our culture. What we think is healthy is not always actually healthy.

      1. Definitely true about the things we have become to believe are healthy are not really healthy and the example you mentioned about Greek yogurt is a great example of that 🙂

  9. I have to admit I’m “addicted” to exercise. I truly love and thrive on it. When I don’t, I get into such a mental funk, and that in and of itself will force me up and at it. Going for a run right now and a long bike ride in the morning. 🙂

    1. I want to get there. In a way, I think I’m already there, I just don’t always know it. I see it most in my boyfriend. He’s always happier after a good bike ride or rock climb session. However, getting him to actually do one or the other can be hard when he’s in a funk.

  10. From living overseas for a decade and recently moving back, I’d say the biggest thing is that fitness is not incorporated into our daily lives.

    In Japan it was easier to bike and walk most places around the community (if it was less than three miles) than to drive. Parking is in strange places and usually ticked away and hidden so you end up walking a short distance even if you drive your car to the grocery store. Walking and biking short distances was just more convenient than driving. So a good thirty-forty minutes everyday were automatically incorporated into my routine because it was more convenient than driving.

    Living in China I never had a car. There was really room to put one, and I didn’t really have the desire. Again, I could bike, walk and take public transit everywhere. The twenty minute walk to the university in the mornings was just what I did – there were no roads to the class buildings even if I decided I would like a car. Adding ten minutes onto the already ten minute walk didn’t seem like a burden.

    In the States we take two steps out of the house to our driveway, drive and take another few steps into our destinations. Fitness is something we have to go and do – it’s not just a part of our life.

    1. In college, I walked everywhere. It was truly wonderful and, just as you say, often easier than trying to drive anywhere. I do miss that. I see some businesses in America who provide gyms to their employees. I’d love to work at a place that did that. It’s not the same as enjoying the sunshine during a walk to work, but it’s something.

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