The rising obesity epidemic, lack of exercise, oversized portions—these hot topics are all over the media and talked about on a daily basis. If you asked most people what the problem was, many would likely answer that we eat too much and move too little—and they’d be right, kind of. A professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Uri Ladabaum, set out to figure out the problem, and the results surprised him.
Portion Control isn’t the Latest Issue
Dr. Ladabaum assumed he would find that people have been eating more over the past twenty years, but he discovered that caloric intake has remained about the same since 1988. The change? We’re moving less and less.
Now, don’t mistake his findings to mean our portions are appropriate—they’re not. The vast majority of people are not eating the right amounts and are often making unhealthy food choices. His findings simply mean that our eating patterns haven’t changed much in twenty years (likely meaning we were already eating too much in the 80’s).
In the 1980s, around 80 to 90 percent of people reported some level of physical activity; today, more than 50 percent state that they do no physical activity whatsoever. And Dr. Ladabaum thinks that figure is likely too high, because people often overestimate their activity levels. In his study, he found that the group that saw the largest change was white and African-American men and woman. The amount of both males and females in this group getting no activity more than tripled.
A big part of the problem is the large increase in sedentary jobs, which has changed a lot over the past fifty years. Many people are working behind a desk or on a computer for many hours of the day, and are rarely getting any physical activity. According to Dr. Tim Church, a professor of preventative medicine at Louisiana State University, probably around 1 in 10 Americans move on the job—compared to 1 out of 2 in the 1960s.
How to Start Moving More
There are definitely ways to make small changes to our daily schedules that will help increase activity levels. Here are a few things that might work for you:
- Invest in one of the new and popular fitness tracker bands; create goals for yourself, for example hitting 5,000 steps each day
- Take your lunch breaks outside, and do several walking laps around your building
- Carve out 20-30 minutes three days a week to get to the gym before or after work
- Take a walk—even just for 10 minutes—each night after dinner
- Enroll in a weekend class like kickboxing, yoga or swimming