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Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

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Good nutrition, physical activity, and a healthy body weight are essential parts of a person’s overall health and well-being. Together, these can help decrease a person’s risk of developing serious health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A healthful diet, regular physical activity, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight also are paramount to managing health conditions so they do not worsen over time.

Most Americans, however, do not eat a healthful diet and are not physically active at levels needed to maintain proper health. Fewer than 1 in 3 adults and an even lower proportion of adolescents eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day.1 Compounding this is the fact that a majority of adults (81.6%) and adolescents (81.8%) do not get the recommended amount of physical activity.2

As a result of these behaviors, the Nation has experienced a dramatic increase in obesity. Today, approximately 1 in 3 adults (34.0%) and 1 in 6 children and adolescents (16.2%) are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, which are among the leading causes of death. In addition to grave health consequences, overweight and obesity significantly increase medical costs and pose a staggering burden on the U.S. medical care delivery system.

Ensuring that all Americans eat a healthful diet, participate in regular physical activity, and achieve and maintain a healthy body weight is critical to improving the health of Americans at every age.

Health Impact of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

The health impact of eating a healthful diet and being physically active cannot be understated. Together, a healthful diet and regular physical activity can help people:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer
  • Strengthen muscles, bones, and joints
  • Improve mood and energy level

Chief among the benefits of a healthful diet and physical activity is a reduction in the risk of obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for several of today’s most serious health conditions and chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and osteoarthritis. Obesity also has been linked to many forms of cancer.

References

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables. Atlanta, GA: 2009. Available from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/health_professionals/statereport.html

2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: 2008. Available from http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines

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