3% of Americans Are Healthy, Find Out If You're One of Them

Do you meet these four standards of a healthy lifestyle? Credit: Patrik Giardino / Getty Images

Do you consider yourself healthy? If you’re like 97 percent of Americans, you may be missing the mark, suggests new research published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The researchers looked at four major health categories — exercise, diet, smoking status, and body fat — and found that only 2.7 percent of the nearly 5,000 adults in the study met the healthy standard for all four areas. Even more alarming was that 11 percent met none of them. 

“We focused on these four lifestyle factors because they’re important for chronic-disease prevention,” says Ellen Smit, PhD, one of the study authors and associate professor of epidemiology at Oregon State University. The more boxes you can check off, the more likely you are to have better cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin readings — and thus a lower risk for diseases like heart disease and diabetes, she says.

Can you meet all four healthy standards? Find out:

Are you exercising enough?

This doesn’t mean your time needs to be spent in a gym or on a running trail. The researchers counted all moments of activity, not just, say, 10- or 30-minute sessions. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator? That counts. Sprinted to catch the bus? Yep. Did 10 squats while brushing your teeth? There you go. It’s even easier to count if you’re using a FitBit or other tracking device. Healthy Standard: If you get at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-exercise per week.

Does your diet pass the test?

The researchers used what’s called the Healthy Eating Index, a test developed by the USDA that sums up how well you’re following the recommendations for including things like fruit, veggies, whole grains, dairy, and limiting the not-so-great stuff like refined grains and junk food.

You can score yourself here. Some measures are easier to figure out than others (‘how much fruit do you eat?’ versus ‘what is the ratio of fatty acids you consume?’) but you can use it to get a rough idea of where you fall. Healthy Standard: A score of 60 or higher.

Do you smoke?

Pretty self explanatory. As for why it’s so important, the CDC sums it up nicely: “Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body.” That includes upping your risk of heart disease, cancer, and COPD. Healthy Standard: Answering “no.”

What's your body fat percentage?

This one may be harder to determine, because researchers had participants undergo DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans, which traditionally measures bone density but also analyzes body fat percentage. You might not have access to body composition machines (some major cities have what are called DexaFit Labs), and scans can cost $150 a pop. However, to make it easier, you can look at your BMI, says Smit. (Find out yours here.) “I encourage everyone to know their BMI and see if it’s in the healthy range,” she says. Healthy Standard: A BMI within the 18.5 to 24.9 range.