ATLANTA — For many rich people, both sitting by the poolside and doing vigorous exercise are not mutually exclusive. A new study finds that wealthy individuals are prone to sedentary lifestyles about as much as they are to working out.

Researchers at the American Cancer Society analyzed data on 5,206 American adults enrolled in the National Health and Examination Survey, examining levels of physical activity and sedentariness.

These habits were specifically compared to income level, to determine whether wealth is correlated to sufficient exercise.

Woman relaxing at pool
A new study finds that wealthier people are more physically active than low-income individuals, but they’re also more sedentary too.

Previous, self-reported studies have shown that high-income individuals are more likely to exercise strenuously and frequently, compared to the average population.

Less than 5 percent of Americans meet recommended levels of exercise, despite evidence that low levels of physical activity are linked to premature death and disease, including cancer. At the same time, a sedentary lifestyle is also associated with many negative health outcomes, even when one exercises a sufficient amount.

The researchers found that individuals making over $75,000 a year engaged in 4.6 more minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, on average, compared to those making under $20,000 a year.

Wealthy individuals also devoted an 9.3 additional minutes a day to light intensity activity, while simultaneously spending 11.8 more minutes of their time in a sedentary position.

Since lower-income individuals generally have diminished access to recreational facilities, it should come as little surprise that they do not exercise as often.

More well-to-do individuals tend to work at office jobs, explaining their tendency to be more sedentary, and were found to be “weekend warriors” (i.e., they consolidated the vast majority of their exercise into a few sessions).

“Our findings pertaining to income and the ‘weekend warrior’ effect underscore the importance of tailoring the physical activity message to reflect the constraints of both low and high income individuals,” says lead researcher Dr. Kerem Shuval in an American Cancer Society news release.

“To meet guidelines one can engage in 150 minutes of weekly moderate intensity activity over a 2 or 3-day period rather than 7 days, for example,” he continues. “This can be achieved over a long weekend, a message we may want to convey to those pressed for time. It is important to remember, however, that we should increase the duration and intensity of activity gradually to avoid injury. Also, if inactive consult with a physician before embarking on an exercise program.”

The study’s findings were published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

About Daniel Steingold

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