Nav: Home

Highly active adults vary their workouts to meet exercise recommendations

January 29, 2020

Highly active adults engage in a greater variety of physical activities than do less active adults, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

The study, published in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, also revealed that walking is the most common type of exercise, followed by cycling and dancing.

Physical activity is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and has been shown to reduce the risk of many illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and depression. National guidelines recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two each week. However, more than half of U.S. adults do not meet these recommendations.

Physical activity guidelines do not account for the type or variety of activities--for instance, whether someone meets the recommendation by jogging for half an hour five days a week, taking two vigorous boot camp classes, or doing a combination of walking, swimming, and cycling.

"Developing a better understanding of patterns of physical activity, and the individual factors related to these patterns, could inform targeted interventions to increase physical activity," said Susan Malone, PhD, RN, an assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and the study's lead author.

Malone and her colleagues analyzed patterns of physical activity across multiple dimensions (frequency, duration, and type of exercise) among a national sample of 9,816 U.S. adults using the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003-2006). They also examined demographic and health characteristics and how these factors were linked to different patterns of physical activity.

Notably, the researchers found that highly active adults participate in a greater number of activities, with active adults engaging in at least two different activity types in the last month and the most active participating in five.

"Since a greater variety of activities was associated with meeting exercise guidelines, mixing up your workouts to vary the type of exercise could be beneficial," said Malone.

Walking is the most common type of physical activity, with more than 30 percent of all adults walking an average of four times a week for roughly 40 minutes at a time. After walking, cycling and dancing are the most popular activities.

Among adults who exercise, the researchers identified five "clusters" of physical activity patterns: low frequency, short duration (13 percent of exercising adults); low frequency, long duration (7 percent); daily frequency, short duration (55 percent); daily frequency, long duration (7 percent); and high frequency, average duration (18 percent).

High-activity clusters (daily frequency, long duration and high frequency, average duration) had a greater proportion of younger, white, non-smoking men with at least a high school education. In contrast, active women were more likely to engage in short but frequent bouts of activity.

"There are several scheduling and social barriers that could explain why this pattern of shorter, frequent activity may be more attainable for women as compared to men. For instance, research shows that women have less leisure time, reporting an average of 13.2 hours of household labor per week compared to 6.6 hours for men," said Malone.

Finally, the researchers found that 44 percent of adults report no physical activity; adults with chronic conditions and poor health behaviors like smoking are more likely to fall into this group that does not exercise. Nonetheless, a small percentage of adults with chronic conditions do exercise regularly, suggesting that they can incorporate physical activity into their lifestyles.

"When encouraging their patients to exercise, clinicians should not just ask about frequency, but also what types of physical activities their patients do. They may even suggest engaging in a variety of activities," said Malone. "The ultimate goal is to develop targeted interventions to help people stick to their exercise plans and lower their disease risk."
In addition to Malone, study authors include Laura Grunin, Gail Melkus, and Gary Yu of NYU Meyers; Freda Patterson of the University of Delaware; Barbara Riegel and Allan Pack of the University of Pennsylvania; and Naresh Punjabi, Jacek Urbanek, and Ciprian Crainiceanu of Johns Hopkins University. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research (K99NR017416), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (T32HL7953), and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (R01MD012734) as well as the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (P20GM113125).

About NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing (@NYUNursing)

NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing is a global leader in nursing and health. Founded in 1932, the College offers BS, MS, DNP, and PhD degree programs providing the educational foundation to prepare the next generation of nursing leaders and researchers. NYU Meyers has three programs ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report and is among the top 10 nursing schools receiving NIH funding, thanks to its research mission and commitment to innovative approaches to healthcare worldwide.

New York University

Related Physical Activity Articles:

Physical activity and sleep in adults with arthritis
A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research has examined patterns of 24-hour physical activity and sleep among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and knee osteoarthritis.
Regular physical activity seems to enhance cognition in children who need it most
Researchers at the Universities of Tsukuba and Kobe re-analyzed data from three experiments that tested whether physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children.
The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.
Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.
Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.
Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.
Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.
Light, physical activity reduces brain aging
Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging.
More Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.