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The Big Picture

  • An astonishing 55% of the population is considered overweight or obese — 97 million American adults — according to the new NHLB guidelines.
  • Only 14.4% of the adult population claims to engage in regular, vigorous exercise. More than a quarter of Americans —28.7%— admit they do not participate "in any physical activity."

Weight and the Socioeconomic Scale

  • The more money you have, the more you seem to exercise. 20.5% of individuals with a household income of $50,000 or more participated in "regular, vigorous activity"1 whereas only 9% did among those with a household income less than $10,000.
  • The more educated you are, the more you seem to exercise. Of those lacking a high school diploma, only 8.2% engaged in "regular, vigorous" exercise, while 46.5% admitted to "no participation in physical activity." Among college graduates, 21.9% exercised in a "regular, vigorous" manner, while 17.8% were considered sedentary.

The Mind/Body Split

  • Overweight women are more realistic than overweight men in recognizing themselves as overweight. 91.8% of women defined as overweight2 perceive themselves as such, whereas only 83.4% of overweight men consider themselves to be so.
  • Almost twice as many women as men who are not overweight think that they are. 25.3% of men and 47.9% of women defined as within their normal weight range think they weigh too much.
  • The group least forgiving of itself consists of white women between 40 and 59 years who are within their target weight range — a full 59.6% of these women are convinced that they are overweight when they actually aren't. Least concerned about their weight are overweight black men 60 years and older — 36.7% of these overweight men don't accept being labeled overweight.

1. 1992 figures. "Regular, vigorous exercise" is defined as "rhythmic contracting of large muscle groups performed at 50% or more of estimated age- and sex-specific maximum cardiorespiratory capacity, 3 times per week or more for at least 20 minutes per occasion). Source for these figures as well as those listed under "Weight and Socioeconomic Scale": U.S. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, 1996.

2. In this table, overweight is defined according to the less strict standards employed before the June 1998 publication of the NLBI guidelines. For men, overweight is defined as having a body mass index greater than or equal to 27.8; for women, overweight is defined as body mass index greater than or equal to 27.3. Source: U.S. National Center for Health Statistics

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