Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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An Obesity Epidemic or an Inactivity Epidemic?

A few weeks ago I did a post that included 8 charts on how the U.S. got so obese.


Below is a chart I missed from a paper published in early July. This study argues that less physical activity and not more calories is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. The black lines show the number of people who self-reported no leisure time physical activity in 2009-2010. The blue lines are the historical data from about 20 years ago. Twenty years ago about 19 percent of women and 11 percent of men got no leisure time physical activity. The more recent data shows that about 51% or women and about 44% of men get no leisure time physical activity.   In essentially every demographic group there has been a 2-4 fold increase in inactivity over the last 20 years.


So do we have an obesity epidemic or an inactivity epidemic?



2 Responses to “An Obesity Epidemic or an Inactivity Epidemic?”

  1. August 12th, 2014 at 11:18 am

    JustaTech says:

    But what about non-leisure time physical activity? Someone who is cleaning houses, or working construciton, or agriculture, is certianly more active than someone who sits at a desk all day. Retail, health-care, child care, those are all pretty physically demanding jobs. And after you’ve spent 10 hours chasing toddlers, or carrying a vacuum up 10 flights of stairs, you might not have the energy to go for a run.

    I think that the important take away from this chart is the decline in physical leisure activity (since there were TVs 20 years ago) and maybe we should ask what else has changed in the physical, social and work environment to cause this decrease.

  2. August 12th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Michael Joyner, M.D. says:

    Thanks, good points! In the previous obesity post there was a figure that showed occupational physical activity is down as well.

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