Recent research reveals that 97% of Americans don’t have all four of these basic healthy habits.
What are the most important things you should be doing for your health? While there’s a ton of advice out there, most doctors agree that it boils down to four basic habits: watch what you eat; exercise moderately and regularly; keep an eye on your body fat percentage; and don’t smoke.
Just doing these four things lowers your risk of many health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Seems simple, right? But according to recent research, only 2.7 percent of American adults adhere to all four habits.
When researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi looked at the behavior of 4,745 adults from across the United States, they were shocked to discover how few people had all four habits. Ellen Smit, senior author on the study and an associate professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, remarked on the findings in a news release. “This is pretty low, to have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “This is sort of mind boggling. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.”
Not smoking was the most popular healthy habit, with 71 percent of subjects avoiding cigarettes. 46 percent of subjects hit or exceeded their activity level goal. 38 percent ate well. A mere 10 percent had a body fat percentage in the normal range.
Rather than simply asking the subjects about their behavior and relying on self-reported data, the study also used actual behavioral measurements. Each subject wore an accelerometer, which is a device that measures movement. The goal was 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week. Smoking status was confirmed by blood samples. X-ray absorptiometry was used to determine body fat percentage. Subjects who were in the top 40 percent of people who ate foods recommended by the USDA were considered to have a good diet.
Some other remarkable findings of the study were:
- Having a normal body fat percentage appeared to be the most important factor in achieving healthy levels of HDL and total cholesterol.
- While only 2.7 percent of the subjects had all four healthy habits, 11 percent had none, 34 percent had one, 37 percent had two, and 16 percent had three.
- There were differences in habits according to gender. Women were less likely to get enough exercise, but were more likely to avoid smoking and eat well.
- Mexican Americans scored higher on the healthy eating scale than non-Hispanic white or black adults.
- While adults over 60 had fewer healthy habits than adults ages 20-39, they were more likely to be non-smokers and eat a healthy diet.
While the findings of the study were alarming, hopefully they will serve as a wake-up call to the many American adults who have unhealthy habits. Experts agree that more research needs to be done to discover the best ways to help people incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily lives.
News release: Oregon State University