That finding is troubling, but it doesn’t truly reflect the extent of America’s inactivity problem. For in a large chunk of the country — almost half the states and two territories (Puerto Rico and Guam) — more than 1 in 4 adults are physically inactive.
Indeed, in some areas of the country, almost 1 in 2 adults say they don’t exercise at all.
The findings are based on results from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys for the years 2015-2018. The agency has been conducting BRFSS telephone surveys each year for more than three decades.
To determine how physically active — or inactive — people are, the survey asks the following question: “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?” People who respond “no” are classified as physically inactive.
When the CDC researchers mapped the 2015-2018 results to that question, they found that states in the South tend to have the highest rates of inactivity (28 percent), followed by those in the Northeast (25.6 percent), the Midwest (25 percent) and the West (20.5 percent).
Puerto Rico had the biggest proportion of residents who reported not exercising (47.7 percent), followed by Mississippi (33 percent) and Alabama (31 percent).
The state with the smallest proportion of non-exercising adults was Colorado (17.3 percent), with Washington (18.3 percent) and Utah (18. 6 percent) not far behind.
In Minnesota, 21.2 percent of adults — more than 1 in 5 — report being physically inactive.
Minnesota’s rate is disappointing, to say the least, but it is lower than that of the state’s near-neighbors: Wisconsin (21.4 percent), South Dakota (22.3 percent), Iowa (24.2 percent) and North Dakota (24.6 percent).
In addition to the state differences, the data revealed some striking differences in inactivity by race and ethnicity. In most states, blacks and Hispanics are significantly more likely to report being physically inactive than whites.
Overall, Hispanics have the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (31.7 percent), followed by blacks (30.3 percent) and whites (23.4 percent).
That pattern is true in Minnesota, too, where 36 percent of Hispanics, 26.7 percent of blacks and 19.9 percent of whites report being physically inactive.
“Too many adults are inactive, and they may not know how much it affects their health,” said Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, in a released statement. “Being physically active helps you sleep better, feel better and reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.”
As Petersen and her CDC colleagues point out, physical inactivity contributes to 1 in 10 premature deaths, and costs the U.S. economy $117 billion in annual healthcare expenditures.
The CDC currently recommends that adults get a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. That’s the equivalent of walking briskly at a pace of at least three miles per hour or bicycling at a pace of 10 miles an hour or less on a flat surface.
Through its Active People, Healthy Nation initiative, the CDC is trying to make it easier and safer for Americans to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives.
FMI: The CDC’s state-by-state data on physical inactivity was published on the agency’s website.