Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated state maps showing rates of physical inactivity in the US. The maps show high rates, differences among states, and notable differences in physical inactivity levels by race and ethnicity.
What do the data show?
Colorado had the lowest level of inactivity (17.7%). Puerto Rico reported the highest level of inactivity (49.4%). 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%). The Midwest (25.2%) was next, followed by the Northeast (24.7%), and the West (21.0%).
Overall, Hispanic adults (32.1%) had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity outside of work. Percentages for other groups were 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%).
Where are these data from?
The new maps are based on combined 2017-2020 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). BRFSS is 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.
For these maps, physical inactivity for adults is defined as not participating in any physical activities outside of work over the last month. Examples of these physical activities include running, walking for exercise, or gardening.
Why do these data matter?
“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).”
Physical activity can benefit everyone. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, recommends 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 can build physical activity into their day many ways. What counts? Go for a brisk walk or a hike. Walk the dog. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Park further away in the parking lot and walk the rest of the way. Walk or bicycle to run errands. Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way. The key is to move more and sit less.
But not everyone has the same access to safe and convenient places to be physically active. Lack of access may contribute to the observed racial and ethnic disparities.
How are these data useful for PAPREN members?
Ongoing surveillance is critical to illustrate the scope and urgency of a problem. It can reveal differences among populations, regions, and communities that yield research questions and collaboration opportunities. PAPREN members are encouraged to consider these data in Work Group projects and discussions as well as for your own research, advocacy, and practice work.
CDC is working with communities and partners across the country (including PAPREN) 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.
Where can I get the data?
You can find the maps and data tables at www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/inactivity-prevalence-maps/index.html.