September 15th, 2010
02:03 PM ET

How Americans spend day: Eating, TV, socializing

Americans spend most of their non-work and non-sleep time in sedentary activities such as eating and drinking, followed by watching TV or movies, according to an analysis of time use.

On a given day, only 5.07 percent reported doing any vigorous intensity activity, according to the research published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The survey was a snapshot of any day in America and should not be interpreted to mean that only 5 percent of people exercise, said study author, Catrine Tudor-Locke.

"Let’s say you are a runner," she said.  "You don’t run seven days a week. You don’t run five days a week.  You might run three days a week, but if you were queried on any of those days you didn’t run, you weren't in the 5 percent."

"People who exercise don’t necessarily do that back-to-back everyday. But you eat and drink everyday, so you will see that on an everyday basis," said Tudor-Locke, the director of the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The most frequently reported moderate activity was food and drink preparation.

Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey. This survey is administered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that captures how people spend their time, by asking respondents to recap their activities for the last 24 hours. They looked at data from 2003-2008 from close to 80,000 respondents.

With about two-thirds of Americans considered overweight or obese, these results may not be all that surprising.

Here are the top activities:

The most frequent sedentary activities
1) eating and drinking (95.6 percent)
2) watching TV/movies (80.1 percent)
3) communicating with others (37.2 percent)

The most frequent light activities
1) washing, dressing, and grooming oneself (78.9 percent)
2) driving (71.4 percent)
3) housework, interior cleaning (50.6 percent)

The most frequent moderate activities
1) food and drink preparation (25.7 percent)
2) lawn, garden, and houseplant care (10.6 percent)
3) storing interior household items, including food (6.46 percent)

The most frequent vigorous activities
1) cardiovascular equipment (2.2 percent)
2) running (1.1 percent)
3) aerobics (0.49 percent)

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