CDC releases data on American adults’ lack of physical activity

Jan. 21, 2022

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.

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 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.

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