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America’s fitness boom fails to curb obesity problem

Despite a booming fitness industry, Americans are more likely to be obese today than ever before, Axios recently reported.

» RELATED: Georgia adult, teen obesity rates among worst in America

A report from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association has shown that the United States fitness industry brought in $30 billion in revenue in 2017, the number of U.S. gym members have increased by 33 percent since 2008, fitness apps and wearables are increasingly popular and the weight loss program market is booming as well.

Still, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent numbers from 2015-2016 show that 93.3 million adults in the United States are obese. That’s nearly 40 percent of the population. Rates of obesity among children and teens are on the rise, too.

» RELATED: About 4 in 10 American adults are obese — and it's only getting worse

So, what’s going on?

“Exercise has many benefits, but there are problems with relying on it to control weight,” Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, wrote in the New York Times in 2015. “From 2001 to 2009, the percentage of people who were sufficiently physically active increased. But so did the percentage of Americans who were obese. The former did not prevent the latter.”

According to Carroll, previous research has not effectively shown that a physically active individual is less likely to gain excess weight than a sedentary individual. 

» RELATED: One-third of all humans are now overweight — and American children are leading the way

“Moreover, exercise increases one’s appetite,” he added. “A 2012 systematic review of studies that looked at how people complied with exercise programs showed that over time, people wound up burning less energy with exercise than predicted and also increasing their caloric intake.”

Analyses have also proven that combining diet and exercise leads to more sustained weight loss than diet alone.

“Far too many people, though, can manage to find an hour or more in their day to drive to the gym, exercise and then clean up afterward — but complain that there’s just no time to cook or prepare a healthful, home-cooked meal,” Carroll wrote. “If they would spend just half the time they do exercising trying to make a difference in the kitchen, they’d most likely see much better results.” And that doesn’t have to mean making drastic dietary moves. It’s all about sustainable changes.

» RELATED: How the keto diet can keep your brain healthy and young

More than one-third of Americans rely on fast food every day and only 1 in 10 eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, according to the CDC. 

“Data shows there is increased availability, affordability and accessibility of high energy-dense foods,” Ashkan Afshin, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told Axios.

Factors like stress, lack of sleep and medication side effects are also notable risk factors of obesity.

» RELATED: What's the least amount of exercise you can do and still be healthy?

“Short sleep duration has been shown to increase levels of leptin and ghrelin, which leads to increased appetite ... and facilitates the development of obesity,” researchers from the American Heart Association said in an August study on sleep. One in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep.

And stress, the CDC has repeatedly stated, can lead to many chronic diseases, including depression, obesity and heart disease.

» RELATED: Why exercise isn't working for you (and what to do about it)—according to science

“The 2016 presidential election season proved to be a somewhat or very significant source of stress for more than half of Americans (52 percent), as suggested by last year’s survey results,” the American Psychological Association wrote in its annual Stress in America study. “In the August 2017 survey, while money (62 percent) and work (61 percent) remain common stressors for Americans, slightly more Americans report significant stress about the future of our nation (63 percent).”

If you feel you are under stress, recognize when you need help.

Follow these tips from the CDC:

  • Take care of yourself by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and giving yourself a mental break when you feel stressed out. 
  • Talk to others. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor or pastor.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol, both of which may seem to help in the moment. In the long run, they create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
  • Take a break. If your stress is caused by a national or local event, take breaks from listening to the news stories, which can increase your stress.
  • Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker or professional counselor.

More at CDC.gov. 

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