For the study, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) tracked the exercise habits of 3.7 million adults across the country for more than 10 years. Researchers found that the number of women who met the recommended exercise guidelines (150 minutes per week) rose by four percent nationwide—compared to the one percent increase for men.
The West, Midwest, and South—which had low exercise rates early in the experiment—showed the most improvement. The results suggest that public health initiatives effectively encouraged more people to exercise in these areas, says lead study author Christopher Murray, MD, director of IHME.
Ready for the bad news? Despite the fact that many counties reported higher exercise rates by the end of the study, Murray says obesity rates didn’t drop by much. In Routt, Colorado, for example, 74 percent of women reported more physical activity, but the county only experienced a .5 percent decrease in obesity.
Murray says this might be because people are burning fewer calories than they consume. (You still have to watch what you eat to keep your weight in check, even if you’re active.)
That said, exercise is an important part of weight maintenance—not to mention good health. If you want to start working out, try one of these beginner-friendly routines: