Physical Activity Of Amish Contrasts With Today’s Epidemic Of
Obesity: Old Order Amish Six Times More Active than Average Adults
decline in work-related physical activity in North America over the
past two centuries may be a major contributing factor to the modern
obesity epidemic, according to results of a recent study of physical
activity and body composition in an Old Order Amish community.
study, 98 Amish adults in a southern Ontario farming community wore
pedometers and logged their physical activities for seven days. The
conservative Amish, known for living without modern technology and
conveniences, utilize 19th century farming techniques that require
The study was
designed to use very accurate, recently developed measurement methods
to assess the actual physical activity levels of the study participants
to determine how the influence of technology affects physical activity
levels in modern society.
A very high
level of physical activity is integrated into the daily lives of the
Amish, the results of the study found. Amish men, who mostly work as
farmers, reported an average of 10 hours of vigorous work per week and
took an average of 18,425 steps a day.
recorded more than 51,000 steps in a single day by walking behind a
team of horses while farming. Women, most of whom report being
homemakers, engaged in more moderateforms of activity such as
gardening, cooking, and childcare, but still achieved an average of
14,196 daily steps.
of physical activity performed were determined and quantified by the
questionnaire, which asked the participants to record three physical
activities they performed each day. On average, the Amish participated
in roughly six times the amount of weekly physical activity performed
by nearly 2,000 participants in a recent survey in 12 modernized
were able to show us just how far we’ve fallen in the last 150
years or so in terms of the amount of physical activity we typically
perform," said David R. Bassett, Ph.D., FACSM, a professor at the
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and lead researcher for the study.
"Their lifestyle indicates that physical activity played a critical
role in keeping our ancestors fit and healthy."
participants also were weighed and measured for height to determine
their Body Mass Index (BMI). Results indicate that only four percent of
those surveyed were obese and only 26 percent were overweight, as
determined by their BMI. This compares most favorably to the prevalence
of these classifications in the United States, where 31 percent of the
adult population is obese and 64.5 percent is overweight.
measurements also were taken and the results were inversely related to
the average steps per day. Each Amish participant met the criteria of
at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, most days of
the week, recommended by ACSM and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC).
unreasonable to suggest that we return to a lifestyle where vigorous
physical activity dominates our workplace," said Bassett. "What we
should do is realize through this study that the modern environment has
changed for the worst in terms of promoting activity and good health.
It will be up to each of us to adapt to this reality by finding new
opportunities to become and stay active."
lifestyle factor often linked to obesity is diet. Interestingly,
researchers observe that the Amish diet is typically high in calories,
fat and refined sugar. Foods typically include meat, potatoes, gravy,
eggs, vegetables, bread, pies, and cakes.
Amish adults are able to maintain a more ideal body weight through
physical activity, despite high levels of caloric intake.
published in the January edition of Medicine & Science in Sports
and Exercise®, the official scientific journal of the American
College of Sports Medicine (ACSM.)
College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise
science organization in the world. More than 20,000 International,
National, and Regional members are dedicated to advancing and
integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical
applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
Visit ACSM online at www.acsm.org.