Americans aren’t particularly active. In a pre-pandemic world, only 25% of Americans received the recommended amount of physical activity (see the note* below). The percentage of Americans engaged in strength training is even lower.
Research from around the globe is starting to paint a clear picture: COVID is making us even less active.
Early data from numerous universities reflect a 32%-50% reduction in exercise. In addition, people who didn’t exercise pre-COVID have continued to stay sedentary. In addition, research suggests we are less likely to restart exercise after we have discontinued an exercise program.
The root cause of this reduction in exercise is multifaceted but not at all complicated. Less walking in urban centers. For example, physical activity has decreased more in New York City than in Alaska. There have been health club closures, and an increase in screen time as so much of our work became Zoom meetings from home.
What’s the impact?
We lose fitness quickly. Our oxygen uptake, blood volume, and muscle strength decrease rapidly when we stop exercising. This new research indicates that people who report scaling back on exercising since the onset of COVID reported poorer mental health.
At a time when exercise is more important than ever, Americans are doing less of it.
Note*: If we are planful in our exercise, doing less of it is probably okay because if we exercise with more intensity, we still reap tremendous benefit. However, very few Americans (even active Americans) exercise at a high enough level of intensity to receive these benefits.
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