WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Only one in seven Americans exercises enough and eats enough fruits and vegetables, and men are worse than women, federal health officials said on Thursday.
“These results underscore the need to promote diets high in fruits and vegetables and regular physical activity among all populations in the United States and among racial and ethnic minority communities in particular,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said in a report.
The CDC tracked the percentage of Americans who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily and engage in moderately intense exercise for at least 30 minutes five days per week or vigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes three days per week as recommended by the government.
Overall, 14.6 percent of Americans met both the dietary and exercise benchmarks, including 12.4 percent of men and 16.6 percent of women.
The findings come at a time of rising obesity in the United States and concern among public health experts about sedentary lifestyles and diets loaded with fat and sweets.
The report found that 12.6 percent of white men and 17.4 percent of white women reached both benchmarks, compared to 11.2 percent of black men and 12.6 percent of black women and 11.7 percent of Latino men and 14.8 percent of Latino women.
Among all groups, American Indian and Alaska Native men (17.5 percent) and women (19.6 percent) did the best.
“The population right now really needs to take responsibility for their own health,” Mary Kay Solera, head of the CDC’s National Fruit and Vegetable Program and one of the report’s authors, said in a telephone interview.
“People know that they need to be eating more fruits and vegetables and they know they need to be doing more physical activity. But we’re not doing it,” Solera added.
Unlike other reports tracking such issues, this one examines those behaviors in tandem for a more complete view. It did not assess whether things are getting better or worse.
“Poor diet and lack of physical activity cause chronic disease,” Solera said. “As our good habits decrease and you’ve got a lot of bad habits, then chronic disease is going to increase, health care costs will increase. There are consequences to what we’re doing.”
The CDC noted that being overweight or obese increases one’s risk of heart disease, some cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and other ailments.
The report was based on self-reported data from a 2005 telephone survey of 356,112 Americans. The survey asked respondents to report their level of exercise and their diet with questions such as, “How often do you eat potatoes, not including French fries, fried potatoes or potato chips?”
The report said some of the racial differences in exercise levels detected might be due to a lack of exercise facilities in lower-income, nonwhite communities.
Moderately intense exercise was defined as brisk walking, bicycling, vacuuming, gardening or anything else that causes small increases in breathing or heart rate. Vigorous exercise was defined as running, aerobics, heavy yard work or other things that cause large increases in breathing or heart rate.