Archives for exercise



Where the Exercise Is

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast tried to figure out what is the “best” exercise. Meanwhile, Richard Florida‘s latest post for The Atlantic Cities blog looks at state-by-state variations in exercise.  When it comes to aerobic exercise, the coasts (and Colorado) win:

[P]articipation in aerobic exercise is most prevalent along the West Coast, in the Rocky Mountain states and the northeast, and far less so in the middle and southern portions of the country.

Colorado tops the list among states, with 61.8 percent of adults meeting the standard for aerobic exercise; Oregon is second (61.1 percent), followed by Vermont (59.2 percent), Hawaii (58.5 percent) and California (58.2 percent). On the flip side, the lowest levels of participation in aerobic exercise are found in southern states – Tennessee (39 percent), Mississippi (40 percent), Louisiana (42 percent), Alabama (42.4 percent) and West Virginia (43 percent).

The trends are similar for muscle-strengthening exercise.  Florida goes on to report on the various correlates of exercise — wealth, affluence, etc.  Interestingly, fitness participation also closely tracks political and religious divides — people in red states exercise less, as do people in more religious states.



What’s the “Best” Exercise?: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “What’s the ‘Best’ Exercise?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Exercise is always on a lot of people’s minds around this time of year, what with all those resolutions just waiting to be broken …

By “best,” we really mean “most efficient,” since people who don’t exercise — and that’s roughly 80 percent of us – often blame lack of time. (The American College of Sports Medicine recommends about thirty minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week; here are its guidelines.)  Read More »



Thirty Squats for a Free Subway Ride

This month, Moscow is offering free subway rides to passengers who can do 30 squats. It’s part Olympic fever, part healthy-lifestyle promotion, via the Wall Street Journal (and be sure to check out the pictures):

Moscow city officials are now offering free rides on the subway to any passenger who does 30 squats before crossing the ticket barrier to enter the metro in an effort to promote physical fitness and sports, according to Russian state media reports.

Each squat will be counted by a special machine marked with the Olympic logo that will be placed next to electronic ticket vending machines.

“We wanted to show that the Olympic Games is not just an international competition that people watch on TV, but that it is also about getting everyone involved in a sporting lifestyle,” Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, was quoted by state-run news wire RIA-Novosti as saying.



More Commitment Devices From Our Readers

Our recent podcast about commitment devices, called “Save Me From Myself,” continues to elicit responses from readers sharing their own experience. The other day, Amber told us about joining the Air Force as a commitment device.

Here’s another pair of stories. The first is from Philip Veysey, who lives in Madrid. He is looking for some advice:

Hi guys,
 
I listened with interest to your podcast about commitment devices and I thought I would share my own which I devised as a way to curb my unnecessary clothes shopping.  I found that I was buying simply more clothing that I needed and although this wasn’t causing me any major problems, I realized that it was really wasteful and I decided to think of incentives to make me stop.

Read More »



Incentivizing the School Commute

We’ve written about bribing kids to get better grades. But what about bribing them to walk or ride their bike to school?

A new working paper examines a program in Boulder, Colorado that attempted to incentivize kids to bike or walk to school over a span of several years. The program began with a $10 cash prize for the first two years, but then switched over to a $10 bike store coupon thereafter. One lucky student who rode and walked to school every day during a “prize period” won the coupon.

Even considering the small, non-cash winnings, biking and walking to school increased 16 percent during the prize period. Here’s the abstract: Read More »



The Vanishing Walk to School

Since the late 1960s, the share of U.S. kids and teens who are overweight has more than tripled. Why? I personally find Ronald McDonald kind of sinister, but it’s possible that Happy Meals might not deserve all the blame. In fact, Noreen McDonald—no relation to Ronald—of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has analyzed a trend that might be contributing to the alarming rise in childhood obesity. Kids today aren’t walking or biking to school like they used to.

In 1969, the National Household Travel Survey found that roughly 41% of school-age children/teens got to school by “active travel” (i.e. walking and biking, though mostly walking, which then and now is more than 10 times more prevalent than biking).

In 2001 the walk/bike share was down to roughly 13%, a pretty spectacular drop. For elementary school children the change was even more stark. Today, even students who live within one mile of school have a less than 50% chance of walking; about 86% of similarly situated students walked in 1969. Read More »



Physical Activity During the Recession: More Voluntary Exercise, Less Exertion

Last month, we wrote about data pulled from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), examining how Americans spend their lost work hours during the recession. While 32% of foregone work hours were spent watching TV and sleeping (not great, though sleeping is helpful), 15% of that time went to “other leisure,” among which, there is “listening to music” and “being on the computer,” as well as “exercise and recreation.”

Two new studies (both coauthored by Dhaval M. Dave of Bentley University) drill further into that ATUS data to paint a more complete picture of our exercise and physical activity habits, and ultimately, what impact they have on our health. The first finds that during the recession, we engage in more voluntary exercise, but have less exertion. Part of this has to do with the difference between exercise and physical activity — the latter is seen as the healthier of the two. (Better to walk to work everyday than do sit-ups twice a week.) With the loss of work, comes a loss of physical activity — particularly with the types of jobs we’ve lost. Read More »



On Payday, Watch Your Back

Another thing to add to the list of things to be paranoid about: your paycheck might kill you. Notre Dame economist William Evans, along with Timothy Moore from the University of Maryland, analyzed more than 75 million deaths in the U.S., and found something interesting.

On the first day of each month, the death rate goes up. Read More »