Why are so many people thin?

Closetpuritan made my jaw drop:

[O]nly 3.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 get 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, yet about 1/3 of American adults have a BMI of < 25. Even if you assume that all of that 3.5 percent is “normal weight” and “underweight” people [protip: don’t!] the vast majority of thin people do not get the recommended minimum amount of exercise–let alone hardcore-fitness-nut amounts of exercise.

I’ve been told all my life that I’m fat because I don’t exercise “enough”  But if  only 3.5% of American adults exercise “enough” to maintain health, maybe we fatties are exercising too much?  Or, y’know, maybe setpoint is real and weight is largely inherited?






12 responses to “Why are so many people thin?”

  1. tehomet Avatar

    Crikey – I never thought of it from that angle before!

    1. Living 400lbs Avatar

      Neither did I. Interesting, ain’t it?

  2. closetpuritan Avatar

    Yay, I made someone’s jaw drop in a good way!

  3. Patsy Nevins Avatar
    Patsy Nevins

    I find this a bit hard to believe & I also peeved that they didn’t count those of us over 60. Of course, I tend to agree with the saying that there are three kinds of lies…lies, damn lies, & statistics. And they can’t really know this for certain, as they have not surveyed, followed, studied, or whatever, all the over 300 million people who live in this country. I will be 64 in September, my husband will be 70 in August, & we both get between 300-400 minutes of exercise, AS exercise, beyond the normal daily moving around in just living, every week. We do not own a car, nor have we ever, neither of us has a license, & walking is our means of transportation as well as our main exercise. We have also spent many years of our lives in second floor apartments, my husband did hard physical work & walked to & from work for nearly 50 years, so I would estimate he has likely walked about 100,000 miles or more in his life. I have battled a lifelong tendency toward compulsive exercise, despite being born with cerebral palsy, & have had several long periods in my life of exercising 4 hours per day, though now I generally manage to keep it between 45-60 minutes.

    We live in Maine, a small, poor, largely rural state which does not enjoy a reputation as one of the country’s ‘healthier’ states in regard to lifestyle, yet it is not unusual for people to live well into their 90’s here, or even sometimes over 100. I am not basing my feelings just on our own habits, but on the fact that every day as I am outside walking, I encounter many other people walking, running, or riding bikes. I also encounter some of the same people repeatedly. And I know that, depending on who the ‘expert’ is making this claim, there can be many differences of opinion about what constitutes movement or ‘real’ exercise, or ‘enough’ exercise, but it is hard for me to believe that, in this huge population, no more than 11 million or so people get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. I also find it hard to believe that they apparently think that, once you hit 60, you fall into a chair & never move again.

    We all know thin people who eat more & move less than we do, so that is also no mystery to me. I just call it genetics & I call the differences in body sizes & shapes the natural variations in which human beings are made.

    1. closetpuritan Avatar

      I’m not sure what you mean by “didn’t count those of us over 60”. If you look at the cited NYT article, it says that 2.5% of Americans over 60 get 150 minutes/week or more of exercise.

  4. Mich Avatar

    If only 1/3 are below a certain number, then that means it doesn’t accomodate the majority. Plus as we know aging means weight gain, so those who weigh less are extremely young.

    On Sandy’s blog (junk food science) she showed studies where as little as 20 mins per week was healthy, and an average for most people of good activity is 70 mins per week. 150 mins seems to be in the danger zone, as higher exercise increases risk.

    On another note, some of us are without power right now in the Alberta floods (mine returned 4 hrs ago), so we had to walk everywhere (I couldn’t get the car out of the garage :( ). I’m sore today.

    1. Mich Avatar

      I should have said “I had to walk everywhere” since I’m by myself right now, my parents are in BC, inaccessible to return due to washout of Trans-Canada Highway.

  5. Patsy Nevins Avatar
    Patsy Nevins

    I have always been torn all my life between a culture which tells us that there is almost no such thing as ‘too much’ exercise & that, if you visibly fat, even when you are doing 4 hours per day, you need to exercise more & eat less & all the real science which shows that we need much less exercise than popular wisdom says, that some of us are always going to be fat, & that too much exercise can be damaging. I Know my joints frequently let me know I push too hard. With me, because of the cerebral palsy, there has always been a lifelong need to prove that I am as good as an able-bodied person.

    I do see quite a lot of people moving around every day, even if for many of them it may be a case of walking 2-3 blocks to the store & back home. Who knows? That may be plenty. I have had many long-lived relatives, none of whom were regular exercisers so they saw me as an oddball, & I currently have a fat 74-year-old brother whose idea of exercise is walking from the house to the car & back.

    And I send good thoughts & positive energy to all of you in Alberta. Take care.

  6. Five Hundred Pound Peep Avatar

    I believe they are thin, because their bodies work normally and self regulate the burning of calories and burning off of fat. I wrote a post where I questioned what do thin people eat? I see enough of them eating plenty of food. One thing I paid attention to was what was in their grocery carts. While some exercise and go running and to the gym, there are many thin “slackers” too who barely move a muscle.


    Part of me thinks that fat people in America are canaries in the coal mine for the toxic environment and bad adulterated food. We are more “sensitive”. Add in the vestiges and stresses of modern life too.

    1. crookedfinger Avatar

      I could completely believe that. Seemingly small changes in diet, habits or stress levels throw my weight and cycles off badly. And contact with objects and smells that are very “chemical-y” leaves me with aches and pains and breathing problems, which includes almost anything scented, cheaply made purses/clothing, memory foam, paints, housing products, places that have been smoked in for many years, etc.

  7. aqtsvrtas Avatar

    A sedentary lifestyle is an unhealthy one whether you weigh one hundred pounds or five hundred.

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