Heavier, Not Taller: How American Bodies Have Changed

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There's no denying that Americans weigh more today than they did 20 years ago, but a new report shows exactly how much more: American men weigh, on average, 15 lbs. (6.8 kilograms) more than they did two decades ago, and for American women, the number is 16.2 lbs. (7.3 kg), the report said.

American men now weigh, on average, 195.7 lbs. (88.8 kg), according to the new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. And American women weigh 168.5 lbs. (76.4 kg) on average, the CDC found.

In the research, published today (Aug. 3) on the CDC's website, the researchers looked at a variety of measurements, taken between 2011 and 2014 during the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This ongoing nationwide survey includes both interviews and physical exams of participants.

Comparing the new findings to data from the CDC's 1988 to 1994 report, which included similar measurements, the researchers found that Americans have gained weight over the last two decades, but have not gotten much taller. [The Science of Weight Loss]

The average American man stands at 5 feet, 9.2 inches (175.8 cm), up just a tenth of an inch from measurements taken two decades ago. The average American woman stands at 5 feet, 3.7 inches (161.8 cm) tall; this number has remained the same over the past two decades.

Among men, the biggest increase in weight was for those ages 60 to 69, who weigh, on average, nearly 17 lbs. (7.7 kg) more than men who were in the same age group 20 years ago. Among women, the largest increase was for women ages 20 to 29, who average 20.7 lbs. (9.4 kg) heavier than they did two decades ago. [Infographic: How Men's & Women's Weights Have Changed]

Along with weight, waist circumference has also increased in the past two decades, according to a comparison of the two reports. For men, waist circumference has risen to an average of 40 inches (101.5 cm), up from 37.5 inches (95.2 cm) two decades ago. For women, waist circumference has increased to an average of 38.1 inches (96.9 cm), up from 34.9 inches (88.6 cm) two decades ago.

The new report also included data on many less common measurements, such as infant head circumference, which. In the new survey, this measure was an average of 15.5 inches (39.4 cm) for a boy up to 2 months old, and an average of 15 inches (38 cm) for a girl of the same age. And upper arm length spanned an average of 15.4 inches (39.1 cm) for men and 14.1 inches (35.9 cm) for women in the new report.

Not all of the measurements from the 1988-1994 report were repeated in the most recent report, however. For example, two decades ago, researchers collected data on wrist breadth, which averaged 2.3 inches (5.9 cm) in men and 2 inches (5.2 cm) in women, and buttocks circumference, which averaged 39.2 inches (99.6 cm) in men and 40.2 inches (102.2 cm) in women. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.