Study finds lack of exercise not a factor in health disparities

April 18, 2013, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Health disparities between white and black adults in the South are not connected to a lack of exercise but more likely related to other factors such as access to health care, socioeconomic status and perhaps genetics, according to a Vanderbilt study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

In fact, more than 80,000 residents enrolled in the long-term Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS) spent an equal amount of time—about nine hours or 60 percent of their waking day—in sedentary behaviors regardless of race.

"Our conclusion is that is not a significant factor in disparities that are observed in health between, for example, African-Americans and whites in this country," said senior author Mac Buchowski, Ph.D., research professor of Medicine and Pediatrics. Co-authors of the study are SCCS investigators from Vanderbilt, the International Epidemiology Institute, the National Institutes of Health and Harvard School of Public Health.

"Of course from this study we don't know what these reasons are but at least we could eliminate physical activity as a deciding factor in disparities, or even that it has much influence on disparities. But this does not diminish the role of physical activity in , which is well known."

A major goal of the study, Buchowski said, was looking at sedentary behaviors, which are linked to more than more active forms of physical activity in adults.

Sedentary behaviors are behaviors that usually do not require more than 50 percent more energy than lying down, such as sitting, doing office work in general and being engaged in that includes viewing television, using tablets, smartphones or any other form of computer work.

Members of the cohort, residing in 12 southeastern states, were asked questions related to physical activity. In the cohort, only 16 percent of women and 25 percent of men were doing physical activity according to the guidelines for Americans, which is 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.

"Perhaps for our cohort it may be more feasible to ask people to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting rather than do gym-based exercises," Buchowski said. "So if people would do a little bit more household or yard work it might be equally, or more, beneficial than vigorous exercise."

Sedentary and physically active behaviors were obtained from a validated physical activity questionnaire in 23,021 black men, 9,899 white men, 32,214 black women, and 15,425 white women (age 40-79) at enrollment into the SCCS.

The prevalence of obesity was 34 percent and 29 percent in white and black men, respectively, and 46 percent and 58 percent in white and black women, respectively.

With the exception of white males, nearly one-third of the participants had less than a high school education and the majority of participants reported household incomes of less than $15,000 annually.

"It has been shown in many studies that, in general, the amount of physical activity and fitness level are related to morbidity and mortality." Buchowski said.

"Regardless of our findings, we think that promoting physical activity is important. In addition to national programs and guidelines universally available to everyone, we need targeted interventions for vulnerable populations with specific needs.

"Our study suggests that interventions in older adults should focus on both reducing sedentary behaviors and increasing more active forms of physical activity," Buchowski said.

Explore further: Some exercise is better than none; more is better to reduce heart disease risk

Related Stories

Some exercise is better than none; more is better to reduce heart disease risk

August 1, 2011
Even small amounts of physical activity will help reduce heart disease risk, and the benefit increases as the amount of activity increases, according to a quantitative review reported in Circulation, journal of the American ...

Even physically active women sit too much

October 31, 2012
Women who exercise regularly spend as much time sitting as women who don't, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Black men place family and community above their own health

July 11, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Black men place a higher priority on fulfilling social roles such as family provider, father, husband and community member than they do on physical activity—and their health suffers because they don't ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.