According to data collected as part of the most recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the obesity rate in America has increased to 27.1 percent, up from from 25.5 percent in 2008.
Gallup and Healthways says this is the highest U.S. obesity rate their survey has recorded since they began tracking it seven years ago.
These results are different compared to the U.S. government's most recent report, which for 2011 to 2012 measured a 34.9 percent obesity rate among adults age 20 and older. According to the Gallup-Healthways report, the government and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measure obesity rates based on "clinical measurements of height and weight as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)."
The Gallup-Healthways report also notes that a separate self-reported government survey, the "Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," measured a 29.4% U.S. obesity rate in 2013.
Gallup-Healthways' survey interviews over 167,000 individuals and uses respondents' "self-reported height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI)."
According to this system of measurement, individuals with a BMI score higher than 30 are considered "obese." Those who fall within the 25 to 29.9 range are considered "overweight," those in the 18.5 to 24.9 range "normal weight," and those 18.4 or less "underweight."
The survey's results found that "obesity rates have increased at least marginally in 2014 compared with 2008 across nearly all major U.S. demographic groups."
However, it is important to note that BMI may not be the best method for tracking obesity because the measurement only accounts for an individual's height and weight and doesn't factor in variables like different body types.
As Hemi Weingarten, CEO & Founder of Fooducate, recently explained, "Some people have big frames, others may be stocky. These body types end up obese more than others, even though they are no less healthy.”
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, many experts say that an individual's waist circumference is a better indicator of overall health.
Plus, while there are major health risks associated with being obese, one recent study found that abstaining from exercise may be more deadly than being obese.
“We estimated that eradicating physical inactivity in the population would reduce the number of deaths twice as much as if obesity was eradicated,” Ulf Ekelund, the study’s lead author and a senior investigator scientist in the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, told Web MD.
The bottom line: while U.S. obesity rates may be on the rise, factors beyond BMI should be considered in order to achieve a clearer picture of an individual's overall health, and for many, exercise should be a main focus for maintaining and improving health.