Did you know that only 2.7 percent of the U.S. adult population achieves all the basic behavioral characteristics that would constitute a “healthy lifestyle”? A recent study by Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi examined how many adults succeeded in four general barometers that could help define a healthy lifestyle: a good diet, moderate exercise, a recommended body fat percentage and being a non-smoker.

The large study group was made up of average individuals and the data was collected through measured behaviors, rather than self-reported information. The standards used in the study are typical of lifestyle advice given by doctors to their patients. During the study, individuals wore wearable devices that tracked their activity, underwent blood testing to verify smoking status, and had their body fat measured by a sophisticated x-ray. Next, a healthy diet was defined as being in the top 40 percent of people who ate foods recommended by the USDA dietary guidelines.

The results were quite disappointing. At the conclusion of the study, only 2.7 percent had all four healthy lifestyle characteristics, 16 percent had three, 37 percent had two, 34 percent had one and 11 percent had none. The researchers emphasized that meeting all four goals is important because these factors have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions.

How do you measure up with the standards for a “healthy lifestyle” as defined by the study:

  • Moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes per week
  • A diet score in the top 40 percent on the Healthy Eating Index
  • A body fat percentage under 20 percent (for men) or 30 percent (for women)
  • Not smoking

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