CDC Maps America's Growing Sedentary Lifestyle

Physical Inactivity Levels Differ by State, Region, Race/Ethnicity

February 03, 2020 10:20 am News Staff

More than 15% of adults in all U.S. states and territories are physically inactive, according to CDC maps released Jan. 16(www.cdc.gov) that show the prevalence of adult physical inactivity.

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The agency created the maps using Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 2015 to 2018, defining physical inactivity as self-report of not having participated in any leisure-time physical activities -- such as running, walking for exercise or gardening -- during the past month.

Findings from the research included estimates of physical inactivity that ranged from 17.3% of people in Colorado to 47.7% in Puerto Rico.

In seven states and two territories (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Guam and Puerto Rico), 30% or more of adults were physically inactive, the CDC said.

Regionally, the South had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (28%), followed by the Northeast (25.6%), Midwest (25%) and West (20.5%).

"Too many adults are inactive, and they may not know how much it affects their health," said Ruth Petersen, M.D., director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, in a press release.(www.cdc.gov) "Being physically active helps you sleep better, feel better and reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers."

Physical Inactivity Demographics

The new CDC maps showed notable differences in physical inactivity levels by race/ethnicity, with Hispanics demonstrating the highest prevalence of self-reported physical inactivity (31.7%), followed by non-Hispanic blacks (30.3%) and non-Hispanic whites (23.4%).

According to the agency, non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics had a significantly higher prevalence of inactivity in most areas than non-Hispanic whites. Specifically,

  • five states and Puerto Rico had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among non-Hispanic white adults;
  • 22 states and Puerto Rico had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among Hispanic adults; and
  • 23 states and the District of Columbia had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among non-Hispanic black adults.

CDC Initiative, Guidance

Notably, the CDC's Active People, Healthy Nation(www.cdc.gov) is intended to combat physical inactivity and make it easier, safer and more convenient for people to be active where they live, learn, work and play.

The initiative's goal(www.cdc.gov) is to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027 to improve their overall health and quality of life and to reduce health care costs.

Family physicians can participate in this initiative by encouraging patients to increase their own physical activity and to share that goal and enthusiasm with their families. FPs can also advocate to make their communities safer and to create more access to resources and opportunities for those who want to be more physically active.

AAFP Resources

The AAFP is dedicated to supporting public health and addressing the obesity epidemic by developing and disseminating evidence-based, innovative and practical tools.  

Family physicians are critical to the process of counseling patients about healthy behaviors to help them avoid overweight or obesity. But for those who struggle with weight and related health issues, family physicians can help by

  • identifying obstacles to nutritious eating habits and suggesting alternative food choices;
  • recommending positive behavioral strategies such as approaches to coping with stress, cognitive behavior therapy options, food journaling and establishing a social support network; and
  • setting realistic and attainable physical activity goals.  

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