Georgia exercise stats comparatively good

One in five Georgia adults meets the aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines for physical activity, equaling the national average, according to a CDC report released Thursday.

Georgia’s 20.7 percent of physically fit made it third in the Southeast. Only Virginia, at 22.7 percent, and Florida, at 21.4 percent, did better among states in the region. Tennessee was at the bottom regionally, with 12.7 percent.

The guidelines recommend that adults get at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as walking, or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging, or a combination of both.

The federal recommendations also say adults should do muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups, sit-ups, or exercises using resistance bands or weights. The muscle work should involve all major muscle groups and be done two or more days per week, according to the guidelines.

Strength training helps build muscle tissue and fiber, and increases an adult’s metabolism, said Jennifer Gay, a physical activity expert at the University of Georgia College of Public Health who commented on the report’s findings to Georgia Health News.

With muscle strengthening, “when you eat foods with a lot of sugar in them, your body is better able to handle the sugar and turn it into energy,’’ Gay said Thursday.  The emphasis on strength training has increased over the past two decades, she added.

The West (24 percent) and the Northeast (21 percent) had the highest proportion of adults meeting the aerobic and muscle activity guidelines. Women, Hispanics, older adults and obese adults were all less likely to meet the standards.

The report finds that nationwide, nearly 50 percent of adults are getting the recommended amount of aerobic activity and about 30 percent are engaging in the recommended muscle-strengthening exercise. Georgia’s averages in those categories are right at the national marks.

“Although only 20 percent of adults are meeting the overall physical activity recommendations, it is encouraging that half the adults in the United States are meeting the aerobic guidelines and a third are meeting the muscle-strengthening recommendations,” said Carmen Harris, epidemiologist in CDC’s physical activity and health branch, in a statement.

“This is a great foundation to build upon, but there is still much work to do,” Harris said. “Improving access to safe and convenient places where people can be physically active can help make the active choice the easy choice.”

(Here’s an Athens Banner-Herald article on the importance of walkability in cities.)

Georgia has been working hard to reduce its child obesity rates. CDC statistics, though, also show that two-thirds of adults in the state are overweight, and roughly 30 percent are obese.

More than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, and the rate has increased since the 1980s. It’s an expensive condition: Obesity-related health care costs reach $150 billion annually.

Regionally speaking, obesity rates are highest in the Southeast.

Georgians are becoming more aware of the issue of weight and obesity, as are Americans in general, UGA’s Gay said. The attention on child obesity in Georgia, she added, helps get adults “to think of their own bodies.’’

The physical activity data released Thursday are based on self-reported information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual phone survey of adults aged 18 and over conducted by state health departments. The data are from the 2011 survey.