Little Change in U.S. Obesity Rates Since 1999

A paper by four employees from the National Center for Health Statistics reports the 2009-2010 prevalence was 35.5 percent among adult men and 35.8 percent among adult women, with no significant change recently.

While it's of great concern that obesity prevalence among U.S. adult age groups exceeds 30 percent, at least the problem isn't growing worse, according to a paper published online Jan. 17 by JAMA. Its authors, four employees from CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, examined data from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and compared adult obesity in 2009-2010 with data from 1999-2008.

The NHANES survey measured heights and weights for 5,926 adult men and women from a nationally representative sample of the civilian non-institutionalized U.S. population in 2009-2010 and for 22,847 men and women in 1999-2008, they report. "Obesity prevalence shows little change over the past 12 years, although the data are consistent with the possibility of slight increases," the authors write. In 2009-2010, the prevalence of obesity was 35.5 percent among adult men and 35.8 percent among adult women, with no significant change compared with 2003-2008. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared). While the data show it changed little from 1960 through 1980, it rose by almost 8 percentage points between the 1976-1980 survey and the 1988-1994 survey and by about the same amount between the 1988-1994 survey and the 1999-2000 survey, according to the paper.

To encourage Americans be more physically active, the American Heart Association has created Walking Clubs. Members can join a club or form one of their own, free of charge. AHA said one of its studies showed American adults are 76 percent more likely to walk if another person is counting on them, but research shows 45 percent of gym members will quit going to the gym in a given year and 30 percent will cancel their membership. Gym fees per member average about $765.40 a year, according to the association.

"I encourage our patients to engage in regular exercise, including moderate-to-vigorous intensity walking programs, and the American Heart Association's new Walking Clubs are a great resource," Barry A. Franklin, Ph.D., director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Laboratories at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., said in AHA's Jan. 17 release about the clubs. "The accountability and camaraderie Walking Clubs provide will help those that struggle with a regular exercise commitment. Numerous studies have now identified a sedentary lifestyle and/or a low level of fitness as independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease."

To join one or create your own, take these steps:

  • Visit www.mywalkingclub.org.
  • Click on Learn More.
  • Sign up by filling out the online form and select either Start a Club or Join a Club.
  • Click Submit

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