A recent survey on 32,000 participants aged 15 years and over, suggests that lack of free time is not a reason for low physical activity among the American population.
The benefits of being physically active are widely known, however, only about 53% of the population meet the current recommendations of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Being physically active requires motivation, but it also requires time. Whether a lack of free time is the reason people don’t tend to meet physical activity requirements was the subject of a recent study.
The study was carried out using the US Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey (ATUS) that was designed to collect data on participants’ activities during one day of their life. The activities were divided into 17 categories, which included exercise and recreation, and free time. Free time was defined as activities that are not associated with taking care of someone else or self-care such as sleeping, eating, doing household responsibilities, shopping, cooking, etc.
In this study, the association between the amount of free time and levels of physical activity was assessed. The researchers found that the average American has between 4.5-5 hours of free time per day. Men had, on average, more free time (356 min/day) and spent more time participating in physical activity (24min/day) than women. On average, women had318 minutes of free time per day and spent 14 minutes on leisure-time physical activity.
A demographic comparison revealed that less income and education was significantly associated with more free and screen time among both men and women. In regards to physical activity, people with less free time (higher income and education) spent significantly more time on physical activity.
The study revealed that most free time is spent on screen time, with only 5% of free time spent on physical activity for women, and 6.6% for men.
Dr. Deborah Cohen, the co-author of the study suggests “increasing the public’s awareness of how they actually use their time and creating messages that encourage Americans to reduce their screen time may help people to become more physically active.” “These findings suggest getting Americans to devote at least 20 or 30 minutes each day to physical activity is feasible.”
Written by Bella Groisman, PhD
Sturm R, Cohen DA. Free Time and Physical Activity Among Americans 15 Years or Older: Cross-Sectional Analysis of the American Time Use Survey. Prev Chronic Dis 2019;16:190017.
News release – https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/rc-lof102819.php
Image by Joanna Dubaj from Pixabay