The National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, showed that “for the first time, more than half of Americans reported that they got the recommended amount of leisurely physical activity.” This means than 50% of Americans now follow the advice: 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. This sounds like great news on the surface; however, a closer look shows that things aren’t quite as rosy.
While Americans are becoming more active, metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes, etc.) haven’t shown signs of improvement. For years, the number of obese and diabetic adults has remained stagnant at 30% and 10% of the population, respectively. Since these diseases are often tied to inactivity, shouldn’t a rise in physical activity bring the numbers down?
Quartz theorized that the benefits of exercise take a few years to materialize. Also, physical activity is only one piece of the pie, albeit a big one. Many other components of lifestyle, such as nutrition and stress management, play prominent roles in improving health and well-being. To illustrate the ties between exercising and other facets of health, take this example: we know that working out makes people hungry because of an increase in ghrelin – an appetite-related hormone – and individuals are more likely to overestimate how many calories they’ve burnt through physical activity. As a result, if a person decides to run an extra mile each day, they are also more likely to indulge in high-caloric and unhealthy foods. It is therefore evident that focusing just on fitness is not enough to manage one’s health and waistline.
Employee wellness program coordinators can apply this knowledge to their own programs for better results. When evaluating vendors, placing an emphasis on platforms that focus on more than just physical activity is key. Whether deciding to work with multiple vendors or going with a multi-functional platform, an organization’s program will be much more effective if it embraces a more holistic approach.