- BI Graphics/Andy Kiersz
- A new CDC analysis shows that 15% of adults in every American state are physically inactive.
- The CDC defined being physically inactive as ‘engaging in no leisure-time physical activity during the past month,’ and found that the Southern states were the least active.
- Hispanic people worked out the least, with a 31.7% rate of self-reported inactivity.
- Experts told Insider this is because many of these people just don’t have the time or motivation to work out.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released its statistics on how often people in America exercise. Not as much as the CDC recommends they should, it turns out. Every single state had at least 15% of adults that were inactive.
Some 17.3% of people in Colorado (the most active state) reported physical inactivity, defined as “engaging in no leisure-time physical activity during the past month.” In Puerto Rico, a US territory, almost half (47.7%) of the population was categorized as inactive.
But, following the trend of previous reports, Southern states remain the least active in mainland US, with around a third of people inactive across the Southern belt, from Kentucky to Florida to Texas.
According to the report, these are the 10 least active states:
- Mississippi (33%)
- Arkansas (32.5%)
- Kentucky (32.2%)
- Alabama (31%)
- Louisiana (30.9%)
- Oklahoma (30.2%)
- Tennessee (30%)
- West Virginia (29.8%)
- New Jersey (28.7%)
- Georgia (28.5%)
Hispanic Americans,who typically work multiple jobs and have less leisure time, exercise the least
The report is released at the start of every year, based on responses from the 2015-2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an ongoing telephone survey conducted by the CDC on over 400,000 people.
This year marks the first time the CDC has created maps of physical inactivity that can be sorted by race and ethnicity.
It showed Hispanic people get the least physical activity. Nationally, 31.7% of Hispanic Americans classify as ‘inactive’. Some 30.3% of non-Hispanic black Americans were inactive, as were 23.4% of white people.
Nancy Allen, a nursing researcher whose work focuses on adapting diabetes care for the Hispanic community, pointed to socioeconomic factors as a reason for why the Hispanic community had the lowest rate of activity.
“You look at the Hispanic population in the state of Utah, for example,” she said. “They’re somewhat impoverished, they might be working two to three jobs, and when they get done with their jobs, they’re going to go home and spend time with their family. It takes somebody who’s got more leisure time than they do to actually become physically active.”
And while some members of the community have active jobs in fields like construction, the majority do not, says Allen.
Not working out can cause serious health issues – and costs the US billions of dollars a year
Physical inactivity is the cause of one in 10 early deaths in America. Inactivity also costs America $117 billion in annual healthcare costs, according to CDC estimates.
Half of American adults have a chronic disease, but only half of adults get the exercise they need to prevent these chronic diseases.
Physical activity comes with a whole host of benefits, from improving sleep, mental health, and cognitive function, to lowering risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and arthritis.
The U.S. Department of Health’s official recommendation is that adults get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. But the CDC’s research suggests many Americans can’t find 150 minutes a week, or 25 minutes a day, to work out.
This study didn’t measure socioeconomic factors, which limits its analysis
The study is limited by only addressing race and not economic factors, says Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center.
“Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks may not have the leisure time that whites do,” Apovian told Insider. “And most Americans work very hard, very hard, long hours. When you get home at night that the first thing you do is not think about going to the gym.”
While these statistics are alarming, University of Utah’s Chief Wellness Officer Robin Marcus told Insider this study is not a direct measure of health. “The question researchers asked is, ‘during the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities?'” said Marcus. That question, which is specifically referring to out-of-work leisure activity, rules out any physical activity someone might have done at their job.
“When you ask people about their leisure activity, the answers differ by socioeconomic status and potentially by race,” Marcus told Insider. Low income people, who might work active blue-collar jobs in fields like construction, are more likely to answer “no” to that question, even if they are active throughout the day, while wealthy people will likely answer “yes,” because they tend to report higher leisure time physical activity, says Marcus.
Weather may also limit how much people work out in Southern states, says Marcus. The humidity and the temperature may make people less likely to go out and work.