Out of shape nation: Half of Americans admit they can’t touch their toes without straining

New survey reveals that the average adult logs just 3,800 steps per day — far less than the 10,000 recommended

NEW YORK — More than seven in 10 (73%) Americans are eager to increase their physical activity to keep up with their children. That’s because the pandemic kept many individuals from taking care of their bodies as well as they were prior to COVID-19.

A recent study polled 2,000 U.S. adults to see how they’re staying active as their routines and lifestyles have undergone drastic change over the past two years. Only half of respondents (51%) can touch their toes without straining. However, people are looking to change their habits, with 70 percent making more of an effort to move around and be physically active more now than at the start of the pandemic.

Whether it’s due to working from home or lack of motivation, 42 percent say they struggle to stay physically active during the day.

Get up and get moving

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel, the survey reveals that now more than ever, Americans are planning on making an effort to be physically active. In fact, people are renewing their commitment to an active lifestyle through activities like stretching at home (43%), at-home workouts (38%), and taking mental health walks (31%).

It’s clear that movement is a means to help people feel better about themselves and connect with those around them. Eighty-one percent of the survey say exercising puts them in a better mood, and 54 percent have made it a goal to exercise more with their family. Other motives to increase movement are to improve their physical health (67%) and mental health (51%), as well as to be a good influence on their children’s lives (42%).

However, when given a list of common hurdles, 87 percent say one or more of those obstacles prevents them from being physically active during the day. The average person reports getting only 3,800 steps per day, instead of the 10,000 recommended by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Lack of motivation (39%) and injuries (30%) are among the hurdles at the top of the list. However, the biggest obstacle is joint pain and arthritis (42%).

“Our results show that pain is the prevailing barrier that affects people who are trying to increase their movement,” says Rishi Mulgund, Brand Director, Pain Relief at GSK Consumer Healthcare, in a statement. “Those with osteoarthritis (OA) have an especially challenging time, as OA negatively affects them an average of four days a week. Fifty-nine percent also said their OA makes moving and exercising more difficult.”

Healthy hacks around the house

While those with osteoarthritis may initially feel hesitant to move more, low-impact activities that are gentle on the joints can help relieve arthritis pain over time. That’s why many individuals with OA incorporate general exercise (42%) and stretching the affected area (44%) into their routine.

“Forty-four percent of those with osteoarthritis said having a support system of people who understand what they’re going through has helped them manage their pain,” Mulgund continues. “Over-the-counter topical treatments can provide additional support and improve mobility.”

On a broader level, many people are also trying a number of tricks or “shortcuts” to sneak in movement throughout the day, such as walking around the house when on the phone (54%) and doing exercises such as crunches and squats while watching TV (42%).

Actively engaging in movement and activities that bring joy, such as gardening, swimming, dancing, talking walks, bike riding, or doing yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi are on the rise. These aren’t the only ways people are moving. In fact, many are thinking outside of the box to get in more steps and incorporate physical movement into their daily routines.

“There are tons of ways you can get creative to get up and move,” Mulgund says. “Movement is more than just a way to get physical activity in — it’s time spent with family.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. That’s messed up. My spine is fused from L3 to T4 , and I’ve had steel rods in it for 40 years. I don’t have much trouble bending over and touching my toes.

  2. The number of morbidly obese children is getting ridiculous. They’ll become health compromised adults. When the us military has to lower PF standards to get recruits? Not all but children don’t play outside anymore. Thanks to the “virtual world” they’re stimulated by sitting on their fat arses staring at a computer screen eating sugar!

  3. I am 77 years old and I can touch my toes. I also can put my socks on standing up.

  4. Within the first year of taking 10k steps a day I gained 20.lbs. Another hoax perpetuated on the American public. A recent study of the skinniest Americans showed they had minimal exercise habits.

  5. I’m a professional volleyball player and I can’t touch my toes. Being 6’9″ makes it extremely difficult.

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