More than 1 in 5 adults is inactive in all but four states, according to new state maps of adult physical inactivity prevalence released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For these maps, physical inactivity for adults is defined as not participating in any physical activities outside of work over the last month – activities such as running, walking for exercise, or gardening.
State and territory-level estimates of physical inactivity range from 17.7% of people in Colorado to 49.4% in Puerto Rico. In seven states and one territory (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico), 30% or more of adults were physically inactive. By region, the South had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (27.5%), followed by the Midwest (25.2%), Northeast (24.7%), and the West (21.0%).
“Getting enough physical activity could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths,” said Ruth Petersen, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).
The new maps are based on combined 2017-2020 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an on-going state-based telephone interview survey conducted by CDC and state health departments. This is the first time that CDC has created state maps of physical inactivity for non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Asian adults.
The demographics of physical inactivity
The maps point to notable differences in physical inactivity levels by race and ethnicity. Overall, Hispanic adults (32.1%) had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity outside of work, followed by non-Hispanic Black (30.0%), non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native (29.1%), non-Hispanic White (23.0%), and non-Hispanic Asian adults (20.1%).
The maps also show that:
- Two states (Alaska and Montana) and Guam had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among non-Hispanic Asian adults.*
- Five states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among non-Hispanic White adults.
- 27 states had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native adults.*
- 23 states and the District of Columbia had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among non-Hispanic Black adults.*
- 25 states and Puerto Rico had a physical inactivity prevalence of 30% or higher among Hispanic adults.
*49 of 52 jurisdictions had sufficient data to be included in these results.
Physical activity can benefit everyone. Lack of access to safe and convenient places to be physically active may contribute to the observed racial and ethnic disparities.
What more can be done?
CDC is working with communities and partners across the country as part of the Active People, Healthy NationSM initiative, to make it easier, safer, and more convenient for people to be active where they live, learn, work and play. The overall goal of the initiative is to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027 to improve overall health and quality of life and to reduce healthcare costs. The initiative helps community leaders take advantage of proven strategies to make physical activity safe and enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities. Building active and walkable communities may also help support local economies and create more cohesive communities.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd, recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. This can be broken into smaller amounts such as 22 minutes every day or 30 minutes/five times a week. Individuals and families are encouraged to build physical activity into their day by going for a brisk walk or a hike, walking the dog, choosing the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, parking further away in the parking lot and walking the rest of the way, walking or cycling to run errands, and getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way. The key is to move more and sit less.
Community leaders can also encourage school and youth physical activity programs, educate, and support families and individuals to be more active. They can create activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations such as home, work, school, and grocery stores. Together, leaders and community members can work with various populations to design and implement culturally relevant solutions to reduce disparities in physical inactivity.