Everybody knows the basic things you need to do to stay healthy: eat a balanced diet, keep your weight under control, exercise regularly, and put out those cigarettes. But how many people actually do all these things? Not many, according to new research from Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Community Health.
What the researchers wanted to know: How many Americans eat right, exercise regularly, and don't smoke?
What they did: The researchers used data from nearly 154,000 telephone interviews done in 2000 using people all over the country ages 18 to 74. In the interviews, people were asked how much they weighed, how tall they were, how often they ate different types of foods, how often they exercised, and whether they smoked.
What they found: Seventy-six percent of Americans did not smoke cigarettes and 40 percent were at a healthy weight. However, only 23 percent of Americans (a little more than 1 in 5) ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and just 22 percent exercised for 30 minutes or more at least five times a week. Americans who did all four of these things were in very short supplythey amounted to just 3 percent of the population. College graduates were more likely than those who hadn't graduated from college to practice all four of the healthy behaviors, as were top earners (those who earned more than $75,000 per year) and people ages 65 to 74.
What it means to you: Seems like most of us need a kick in the rear end when it comes to embracing a healthy lifestyle. As the researchers point out, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and quitting smoking help stave off a host of diseases, from cancer to coronary heart disease.
Caveats: The data from this study all come from interviews with people, so they could have fudged some of their answers, like how much they weighed or how often they exercised. In addition, people were asked to report only the amount of exercise they got during their free time, which could have led those with active jobs to underestimate the amount of exercise they got.
Find out more: The Department of Health and Human Services released dietary and exercise guidelines for all Americans earlier this year. This website has practical eating and exercising advice based on those guidelines.
The American Dietetic Association has a guide for parents to help their kids eat healthy and keep them from becoming overweight.
Read the article: Reeves, M.J. and Rafferty, A.P. "Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics Among Adults in the United States, 2000." Archives of Internal Medicine, April 25, 2005, Vol. 165, No. 8, pp. 854857.
Abstract online: http://archinte.ama-assn.org