The activity level of most Americans is impressively low. Even though it has become common knowledge that exercising is a key element to a healthy lifestyle, more than 60% of adults in the United States are not regularly active and 25% are not active at all. Additionally, many people who have started regular exercise programs, have failed to sustain them. Based on studies by World Health Report 2002, inactivity declines with age and is generally higher among girls and women.
It has been estimated that 60% of the World's population does not get the recommended amount of exercise to remain physically fit. It is important for everyone including children, to adopt good patterns of physical activity. Good physical activity patterns learned at a young age are more likely to be maintained throughout a person's lifespan. If unhealthy lifestyles, such as inactive behavior, are acquired by children at an early age those sedentary behaviors are more likely to persist into adulthood.
The lack of fitness has contributed to the overweight and obesity problems in the US. In 2002, an estimated 64.5% of U.S. adults aged 20 years and older were either overweight or obese. Since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has nearly doubled and the percentage of adolescents who are overweight has nearly tripled.
Research has shown that obesity increases the risk of developing a number of health conditions including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, colon cancer, ischemic stroke, post menopausal breast cancer, and osteoarthritis. Ten years ago type 2 diabetes was virtually unknown in children and adolescents and now it may account for as much as 50 % of new cases of pediatric diabetes in some communities. Among U.S. adults, type 2 diabetes increased 49% from1990 to 2000.
Because of the fitness problems, overweight and obesity issues have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. There needs to be an effort to understand how to promote more active lifestyles. Initiating exercise programs that people would utilize is a difficult challenge for a society that thrives on convenience. Technology has created many time and effort saving products that have caused many Americans to become increasingly sedentary. Cars are used to travel short distances instead of walking and riding a bike. People ride elevators instead of taking the stairs. Children find entertainment through watching television and playing video games instead of playing sports, biking, dancing, or jumping rope. These lifestyle changes have significantly reduced the overall amount of energy expended by people in their daily lives and have thus increased the amount of people who are overweight or obese.