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We're So Lazy. And It's Getting Worse

Senior man sleeping on sofa
Ljupco Smokovski

How bad are Americans about not getting any physical activity whatsoever? Really bad. Like record-setting bad.

The proof: A new survey by the Physical Activity Council (PAC) finds that the number of “totally sedentary” Americans is the highest it’s been since 2007. Roughly 83 million Americans ages 6 and up — about a third of the population — were physically inactive in 2014, nearly 3 million more than in 2013.

That means they didn’t participate in any one of 104 activities covered in the survey, which ran the gamut from golf and fishing to yoga and fitness machines to walking and stretching — just about everything but darts and billiards, which were eliminated when the survey was updated in 2007.

The survey was based on more than 10,700 interviews conducted earlier this year and included responses from children 6 or older to adults 65-plus.

Tom Cove, chairman of PAC, which represents a variety of sports and fitness associations, told the Wall Street Journal that the number of inactive Americans is the highest he has seen in his more than 24 years involved with the survey. “We feel confident, in a sad way, that this is the largest number we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Not everyone is being an inert slug, the survey revealed. Those ages 45 to 54 are actually exercising more. Their inactivity level dropped to 24.3 percent, lower even than that of 18- to 24-year-olds, which dropped to 25.4 percent.

On the other hand, those who are 55 and up — you seriously need to haul yourself up off the couch. At least go for a walk. The mental and physical benefits of regular activity among older adults are well-documented.

The survey also asked inactive participants ages 49 to 68 which activities they would want to do. Top of the list was swimming, followed by bicycling, camping and bird-watching.

Here are other results of the survey.

Inactivity levels by older age group

45-54: 24.3% (down from 28.9% in 2013)

55-64: 34.8% (up from 32.8% in 2013)

65+: 39.4% (up from 37.8% in 2013)

What boomers did most

Fitness sports (including gym machines, yoga, jogging): 59.3%

Outdoor sports (camping, fishing, hunting, hiking): 38.3%

Individual sports (e.g., golf): 24%

Water sports: 9%

Racquet sports: 7.4%

Team sports: 6.3%

Activities adults ages 49 to 68 did most in 2013

Walking for fitness: 47.3%

Treadmill: 15.3%

Free weights (hand weights): 12.9%

Stretching: 12.1%

Weight/resistance machines: 10.5%

Stationary cycling (upright): 8.3%

Free weights (dumbbells): 7.6%

Aerobics (low impact): 7.6%

Running/jogging: 7.5%

Home-gym exercise: 7.5%

Photo: Ljupco/iStock

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