Health status and health behaviors among citizen endurance Nordic skiers in the United States
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BACKGROUND: More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese (69%) placing them at high risk for a wide array of chronic diseases. Physical activity anchors most approaches to obesity prevention and weight management, but physical activity levels remain low in the general US population. As a group, citizen athletes who compete in Nordic skiing events such as the American Birkebeiner participate in fitness cultures that promote physical activity. METHODS: During October-November 2014, we emailed a 48 question online survey to 23,611 individuals who had participated in the American Birkebeiner ski event, the largest citizen ski race in North America. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize data. Binomial and student t test were used to compare binary and continuous outcomes to health behaviors of the US population. RESULTS: 5433 individuals responded. Obesity prevalence (BMI >/=30) was 3% and average BMI was 24. Skiers reported very good health (88%), higher fitness than peers (99%), freedom from depression (93%) low levels of smoking (3%), high consumption of fruits and vegetables, moderate alcohol use, and high levels of physical activity. Fifteen percent practiced all 4 healthy living characteristics known to reduce cardiovascular event risk. CONCLUSIONS: As a group, citizen endurance Nordic skiers enjoy low levels of obesity, below average BMI, and report lifestyle behaviors known to decrease obesity, promote health, and reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Future research should explore hypotheses that explain how the fitness cultures surrounding citizen athletic events support weight loss, cardiovascular fitness, and healthy lifestyle habits.
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