Perhaps its time to get off the computer and go play outside according to a survey released this week by the Physical Activity Council, a national advocacy group for physical activity.
According to the results of their latest survey the number of Americans who were “totally sedentary” last year rose to its highest level since 2007.
These results, which looked at Americans age 6 and over, revealed Roughly 83 million Americans or about 28% of the population, are "totally inactive"
This means they did not once participate in any of 104 specific physical activities the group tracks within the last calendar year, according to the annual survey.
“We feel confident, in a sad way, that this is the largest number we’ve ever seen,” said Tom Cove, chief executive of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, which is a members of the council. Mr. Cove said the large number of idle Americans is the biggest he's seen in his 24 years with the survey.
The number of totally sedentary Americans is up 18% since 2007, while the percentage of the total inactive population age 6 and over has grown by three percent over the same timeframe.
The survey is based on more than 10,700 individual and household interviews which were conducted during the first two months of 2015. The topic concerned their physical activity for just the prior year. The survey tracks involvement in a range of sports and fitness endeavors, from basketball, running, and soccer to other sports like yoga, bowling, and paintball.
The data is unique in that it includes responses from across the age spectrum - children over six to adults age 65+.
The results are somewhat surprising because the rising inactivity runs counter to increasing demand for athletic apparel and footwear. But this may because the sales are driven by the so-called “athleisure” trend which may not be as athletic as leisure focused. Evidence of this can be seen in sales of performance oriented running shoes, which fell 18% for the year ended April 11, while sales of more fashion oriented pairs rose 8% over the same period, according to market tracker SportsOneSource.
One of the biggest takeaways that the Physical Activity Council found is that the level of physical education at school has a direct impact on fitness levels throughout a person’s life.
The groups that make up the council are concerned that decreasing minutes for gym time in schools is raising levels of inactivity among adults.
The group is also concerned that the trend towards demanding and competitive team sports, even among young kids, is turning off some children, Mr. Cove said.
“There are way too many kids who leave sports at age 9, 10, 11, because they simply have to make a decision: am I going to be a travel soccer kid and devote my life to this, or are there other things that I want to do?” he said. Another factor the group cited for reduced activity levels in children is financial concerns.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released physical activity guidelines for Americans in 2008 that suggested children and adolescents should receive 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily, while adults should aim for 150 minutes per week.
“A great majority of schools across the country are not meeting those recommendations,” said Paula Kun, senior director of marketing and communications for SHAPE America, a not for profit group tht tracks physical education guidelines in public schools across the country. In many cases, she said, schools have decreased the amount of time students spend in physical education classes.