The United States Has a “Fitness Debt” of 14.9 Hours

Are you and those in your state performing the recommended yearly hours of training?

When you’re in the gym, your programming might call for an hour-long resistance training with some cardio afterward, totaling an hour-long workout. Perhaps you prefer to hit the yoga studio, hike a trail outdoors, or hit a heavy bag. Of course, each American’s training routine is individualized, as is their training frequency. There is, however, a standard amount of training recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a baseline for physical fitness — 150 minutes per week (130 hours per year).

That might sound like a lot of hours. With 365 days in a year, it equates to an hour-long workout every 2.8 days. If you’re not training on that kind of schedule, you’re in the majority of the US population. According to BarBend‘s survey of 4,136 Americans aged 18 and older, the national “fitness debt” or “fitness deficit” — the difference between how much exercise you should do versus the amount you actually do — was 14.9 hours after further state-by-state analysis. The average American performs 115.1 hours of training per year out of the CDC-recommended 130 hours — a fitness debt of 7.3 percent. Check out each state’s fitness debt or surplus in the infographic below:

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[Related: New Study Shows the Sooner You Swap to a Healthy Diet, the More Years You Can Add to Your Life]

Fitness Debt or Surplus by State

For a faster view of each state’s fitness debt or surplus, here is the complete list of each state in order of largest fitness surplus descending to largest fitness debt:

  1. South Dakota — Surplus of 7.3 hours
  2. North Dakota — Surplus of 3.7 hours
  3. Montana — Debt of 3.5 hours
  4. Wisconsin — Debt of 3.8 hours
  5. Kentucky — Debt of 4.3 hours (T-fifth)
  6. Ohio — Debt of 4.3 hours (T-fifth)
  7. Nevada — Debt of five hours
  8. Nebraska — Debt of 5.1 hours
  9. Indiana — Debt of 6.2 hours
  10. Washington — Debt of 6.9 hours
  11. Oregon — Debt of 7.8 hours
  12. Connecticut — Debt of 9.4 hours
  13. Texas — Debt of 9.8 hours
  14. Utah — Debt of 10.2 hours
  15. Kansas —  Debt of 10.5 hours
  16. New Jersey — Debt of 10.6 hours
  17. Mississippi — Debt of 11.1 hours
  18. Iowa —  Debt of 11.2 hours
  19. Hawaii — Debt of 11.3 hours
  20. Arkansas — Debt of 12 hours
  21. Pennsylvania — Debt of 12.2 hours
  22. Maine — Debt of 13 hours
  23. Illinois — Debt of 13.4 hours
  24. South Carolina — Debt of 13.5 hours
  25. Michigan —  Debt of 14.2 hours
  26. Arizona  — Debt of 15.4 hours
  27. New York — Debt of 16 hours
  28. Alaska — Debt of 16.4 hours
  29. Colorado — Debt of 16.7 hours
  30. Vermont — Debt of 17 hours
  31. Minnesota — Debt of 17.2 hours
  32. Virginia — Debt of 17.3 hours
  33. Massachusetts — Debt of 17.4 hours
  34. Missouri — Debt of 17.7 hours
  35. New Mexico — Debt of 18.1 hours
  36. North Carolina — Debt of 18.7 hours
  37. Tennessee — Debt of 19.1 hours
  38. Florida — Debt of 19.5 hours (T-38th)
  39. Rhode Island — Debt of 19.5 hours (T-38th)
  40. Lousiana — Debt of 20.3 hours
  41. New Hamshire — Debt of 20.8 hours
  42. California — Debt of 22.4 hours
  43. Georgia — Debt of 22.6 hours
  44. Alabama — Debt of 23.6 hours
  45. West Virginia — Debt of 24.1 hours
  46. Maryland — Debt of 26.6 hours
  47. Oklahoma — Debt of 27.6 hours
  48. Delaware — Debt of 31.7 hours
  49. Idaho —  Debt of 35.4 hours
  50. Wyoming — Debt of 35.6 hours

A further breakdown of the data above shows only two states — North Dakota and South Dakota — have a fitness surplus, meaning their respective residents trained for more hours than the CDC-recommended 130 hours per year.

Why You Should Care About Fitness Debt

Accumulating a fitness debt could be hazardous to one’s health. Per Comprehensive Physiology, “conclusive and overwhelming scientific evidence…exists for physical inactivity as a primary and actual cause of most chronic disease.” Put bluntly, “a lack of physical activity…leads to accelerated death.” A contributor to increased fitness debt could be how technology has helped “engineer most physical activity out of daily life,” meaning there is the option to not be active. An example would be having groceries delivered rather than going to the grocery store — this isn’t exercising but is representative of removing activity. As of December 2020, following the early lockdowns related to the Coronavirus pandemic, 42.6 percent of the US population spent more than eight hours per day sitting, which can lead to adverse health outcomes, including premature death. (1)(2)(3)

Fitness Debt
Image via Shutterstock/Gutesa

[Related: New Study Shows the Sooner You Swap to a Healthy Diet, the More Years You Can Add to Your Life]

There is an increased awareness of the severe health complications caused by obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, and increased risk of cancer, but a continued lack of understanding of its causes and the solutions to combat it. A 2016 survey in the Official Journal of the American Society of Bariatric Surgery found that 81 percent of Americans consider obesity to be “the most serious health problem facing the nation.” Yet, most obese Americans do not consult a doctor about the best remedies for their excess weight. (4)(5)

Cost of Fitness Debt

StatPearls states that exercise is a “proven modality for treating the disease of…obesity.” When combined with proper dietary modifications, resistance training can help reduce excess body fat by contributing to a caloric deficit. For reference, obesity is defined as “excessive fat accumulation in adipose tissues.” This correlates to a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30kg/m2. Morbid obesity is any BMI over 40kg/m2. (6)

The lack of sufficient fitness throughout the United States will likely add to a higher obesity rate in the future. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, nearly half (48.9 percent) of all adults aged 18 and older in the US are expected to be obese by 2030. Severe obesity (BMI over 35kg/m2) is predicted to be the “most common BMI category among women, non-Hispanic black adults, and low-income adults.” (7)

Financial Cost of Obesity

Someone with a fitness debt does not necessarily mean that they are overweight or obese. However, the likelihood that they are is higher than if there did not have a fitness debt. One of the reasons someone might accumulate a fitness debt is spending more time working.

A national study in 2019 by BMC Public Health found a significant correlation between successful long-term weight loss by former overweight and obese individuals and less financial savings. In Laymen’s terms, those who successfully lost weight over the long-term were “markedly less successful when it came to their finances” in terms of “monetary savings.” (8) However, that is not to say that prioritizing financial earnings over physical fitness does not come at a steep price.

Fitness Debt
Image via Shutterstock/Nomad_Soul

[Related: How to Prevent Bloating — Science-Based Solutions & Foods to Avoid]

There is a significant increase in medical costs for obese people versus non-obese people, with the cost increasing with the severity of the obesity. In 2021 in the US, annual medical care costs for obese individuals were 68.4 percent to 233.6 percent higher (depending on severity) than those not obese. The aggregate national cost of obesity was $260.6 billion. (9)

Ways To Solve Fitness Debt

There are ways to get out of fitness debt that don’t require a lifestyle overall out of nowhere. Here are a few ways to make a dent in your fitness debt:

Stay Consistent

Science is on the side of consistency. Those who train at the same time every session are likelier to train harder and longer. This means that if you like to train in the morning, get all CDC-recommended 150 minutes per week during the same time window in the morning — same for those who prefer training in the evening. If you plan for three hour-long training sessions per week, log them at the same time on their respective days. (10)

Make It Fun

If there is a kind of physical activity that brings you joy, go for it. The Journal of Sport and Health Science found that higher intensity exercise correlates with enjoyment and self-efficacy beliefs. So if you like a particular type of training and believe you’re good at it, you just found a great way to siphon off some fitness debt. (11)

Fitness Debt
Image via Shutterstock/Bojan Milinkov

[Related: Walking Vs. Driving — New Survey Suggests 1/3 of Americans Would Rather Drive Than Walk 5 Minutes]

Grab a Friend

Not only does training with a partner or in a group leads to more accountability to show up to training sessions, but it is also likely to lead to more balanced physical, mental, and social health. If there is a fitness class or training group that you’ve considered previously, giving it a shot may be a great option to get out of fitness debt as well as make a deeper connection to your community. (12)


  1. Booth, F., Roberts, C., & Laye, M. (2012). Lack of Exercise Is a Major Cause of Chronic Diseases. Comprehensive Physiology, 1143-1211. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c110025
  2. Meyer, J., Herring, M., McDowell, C., Lansing, J., Brower, C., & Schuch, F. et al. (2020). Joint prevalence of physical activity and sitting time during COVID-19 among US adults in April 2020. Preventive Medicine Reports20, 101256. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2020.101256
  3. Dunstan, D., Howard, B., Healy, G., & Owen, N. (2012). Too much sitting – A health hazard. Diabetes Research And Clinical Practice97(3), 368-376. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2012.05.020
  4. Kyrou, I., Randeva, H., Tsigos, C., Kaltsas, G., & Weickert, M. (2018). Clinical Problems Caused by Obesity. Mdtext.Com, Inc.. Retrieved from
  5. Rosenthal, R., Morton, J., Brethauer, S., Mattar, S., De Maria, E., & Benz, J. et al. (2017). Obesity in America. Surgery For Obesity And Related Diseases13(10), 1643-1650. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2017.08.002
  6. Niemiro, G., Rewane, A., & Algotar, A. (2021). Exercise and Fitness Effect On Obesity. Statpearls Publishing. Retrieved from
  7. Ward, Z., Bleich, S., Cradock, A., Barrett, J., Giles, C., & Flax, C. et al. (2019). Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity. New England Journal Of Medicine381(25), 2440-2450. doi: 10.1056/nejmsa1909301
  8. Shuval, K., Fennis, B., Li, Q., Grinstein, A., Morren, M., & Drope, J. (2019). Health & Wealth: is weight loss success related to monetary savings in U.S. adults of low-income? Findings from a National Study. BMC Public Health19(1). doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-7711-3
  9. Cawley, J., Biener, A., Meyerhoefer, C., Ding, Y., Zvenyach, T., Smolarz, B., & Ramasamy, A. (2021). Direct medical costs of obesity in the United States and the most populous states. Journal Of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy27(3), 354-366. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2021.20410
  10. Schumacher, L., Thomas, J., Raynor, H., Rhodes, R., O’Leary, K., Wing, R., & Bond, D. (2019). Relationship of Consistency in Timing of Exercise Performance and Exercise Levels Among Successful Weight Loss Maintainers. Obesity27(8), 1285-1291. doi: 10.1002/oby.22535
  11. Samendinger, S., Hill, C., Kerr, N., Winn, B., Ede, A., & Pivarnik, J. et al. (2019). Group dynamics motivation to increase exercise intensity with a virtual partner. Journal Of Sport And Health Science8(3), 289-297. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2018.08.003
  12. Komatsu, H., Yagasaki, K., Saito, Y., & Oguma, Y. (2017). Regular group exercise contributes to balanced health in older adults in Japan: a qualitative study. BMC Geriatrics17(1). doi: 10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3

Featured image via Shutterstock/Nomad_Soul