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More US Adults Getting Some Exercise

woman running on a street
Perhaps people exercise more in Colorado, but whatever the reason, the state has the fewest obese people in the country. (Image credit: Dreamstime.)

More U.S. adults are getting up off the couch to exercise, a new report suggests.

The report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows a decrease in the percentage of adults who are physically inactive.

Between 2008 and 2010, about 34 percent of U.S. adults said they were physically inactive (they did not engage in any physical activity lasting 10 minutes or more), down from nearly 40 percent of adults who said they were physically inactive between 2005 and 2007.

"To me, that’s very good news," said study researcher Charlotte Schoenborn, a health statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

The new report cannot determine the reason for the decline. But it's possible increased attention to the importance of physical activity, including physical active guidelines that were announced in 2008, played a role. "Perhaps the message is being heard," Schoenborn said.

However, the decline in physical inactivity did not seem to translate to weight loss. The percentage of adults who were obese increased, from 25.4 percent in the 2005 to 2007 period, to 27.4 percent between 2008 and 2010.

The new report is based on a survey of nearly 77,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and over who answered questions about various health behaviors.

Between 2008 and 2010, nearly half of adults (46 percent) met federal guidelines for physical activity: they engaged in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking or gardening) per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (such as running or jumping rope) per week.

Men were less likely to be physically inactive than women, and men were more likely to be smokers and heavy drinkers.

About 25 percent of adults drank "unhealthy" amounts of alcohol, meaning they had five or more drinks in one day at some point during the past year. One in five adults were smokers, and about three in 10 did not get sufficient sleep (seven to eight hours per night).

The report also found differences in unhealthy behaviors among racial groups. Asian adults were less likely to be heavy drinkers, smokers or obese than white, black or American Indian adults. White adults were about twice as likely to be heavy drinkers as black adults, while black adults were more likely to be physically inactive, obese and get insufficient sleep.

Hispanic adults were less likely than other adults to smoke cigarettes, engage in heavy drinking and get insufficient sleep, but were more likely to be inactive and obese.

Compared to adults living in other regions, those in the South had the lowest prevalence of heavy drinking, and the highest prevalence of physical inactivity. Adults in the West had the lowest smoking rates, and were more likely to get sufficient sleep.

"This report offers specific information about which subgroups lag in terms of adopting healthy behaviors, and may serve as a reference document for the public health community in deciding how best to allocate resources to reduce disparities," the researchers wrote.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow MyHealthNewsDaily @MyHealth_MHND, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on LiveScience.

Rachael Rettner
Rachael Rettner

Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.