Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said the rise in physical activity levels will have a positive health impact on Americans by reducing death and chronic disability from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
But the trend has had little impact so far on stopping the rising tide of obesity. As physical activity increased from 2001-09, so did the percentage of the population considered obese, Murray said.
Obesity and risk factors from poor diets, smoking and high blood pressure all are causing a drag on U.S. life expectancies, which increased slowly compared to the country's economic peers between 1985-2010.
"Around the country, you can see huge increases in the percentage of people becoming physically active, which research tells us is certain to have health benefits," Murray said in a statement. "If communities in the United States can replicate this success and tackle the ongoing obesity impact, it will see more substantial health gains."
Murray analyzed national data on counties from 2001-11 and found an increase in adults who did moderate activity 150 minutes a week, or vigorous activity 75 minutes.
The study was published in the journal Population Health Metrics.
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