Most U.S. Adults Would Fail a Healthy Lifestyle Test

You won't believe how many Americans don't meet all four of the factors associated with healthy living


Think you're doing everything you can to keep up a healthy lifestyle? According to explosive new research from Oregon State University, only 2.7 percent of Americans are meeting the four criteria that entail a healthy lifestyle: a good diet, moderate exercise, a recommended body fat percentage, and being a non-smoker. Basically, the health advice any doctor would dole out. (And maybe you would too.) So why is most of the country failing at checking off these boxes?

"This is pretty low, to have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle," said Ellen Smit, senior author on the study and an associate professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, in a statement. "This is sort of mind-boggling. There's clearly a lot of room for improvement." Specifically, Smint notes that "the behavior standards we were measuring for were pretty reasonable, not super high. We weren't looking for marathon runners." (After all, How Much Exercise You Need Totally Depends on Your Goals.)

Smit and her team looked at a large study group-4,745 people from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey-and also included several measured behaviors, rather than just relying on self-reported information, making the finds extra valuable (and even more controlled). The research, which was published in the April issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, used various criteria to measure individuals' health beyond a self-reported questionnaire: they measured activity with an accelerometer (with the goal being to meet the American College of Sports Medicine-recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week), drew blood samples to determine non-smoker verification, measured body fat with x-ray absorpitometry technology (instead of those damn calipers), and considered a "healthy diet" to be in the top 40 percent of people who ate United States Department of Agriculture-recommended foods.

While only 2.7 of Americans could tick off all four of the above-mentioned boxes, far more fared better when looking at each criterion individually: 71 percent of adults were non-smokers, 38 percent ate a healthy diet, 46 percent worked out enough, and, perhaps most shockingly, just ten percent had a normal body fat percentage. With regard to the female participants, Smit and her team found that women were more likely to not smoke and eat a healthy diet, but less likely to be sufficiently active.

So that's your cue to get up and get moving. Even if you're lazy-we can help with that!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles