More than 1 in 7 adults across all U.S. states and territories are physically inactive, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
The findings were compiled from 2015-2018 data collected as part of the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is a telephone-based survey of people’s health activities, chronic conditions, and use of preventive health services.
To assess the level of physical inactivity among respondents, interviewers asked people: “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?” If they responded “no,” they were classified as physically inactive.
Colorado ranked lowest, with 17.3% of people physically inactive, compared to Puerto Rico, which had the highest total at 47.7%.
Overall, states in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Utah, and Washington, D.C., had the smallest percentage of physically inactive adults. At least 30% of adults in many Southern states, Puerto Rico, and Guam reported not being physically active.
Starker differences emerge when the data are sorted by race and ethnicity. For instance, among white non-Hispanic adults, fewer than 15% of adults in Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C., reported physical inactivity. Guam — which had high overall rates of inactivity — falls within the lowest bracket among white adults. In general, white adults were also the least likely of any racial group to be physically inactive.
Among non-white Hispanic adults, 22 states and Puerto Rico have a physical inactivity rate of 30% or higher. And overall, at nearly 32%, Hispanic adults had the highest rate of inactivity among U.S. adults.
About 30% of Black adults across all states and territories are physically inactive. And 23 states and Washington, D.C. had inactivity rates in this population of 30% or higher. Several places, including Idaho, Montana, and Guam didn’t have sufficient data to assess activity among Black adults.
The findings are based on self-reported data, and actual rates of physical inactivity could vary from these figures. Still, the CDC says that physical inactivity can lead to premature death and is associated with $117 billion in annual health care costs. One in 10 premature deaths can be linked to not being physically active, according to the CDC, including around 12% of breast and colorectal cancer cases, and nearly 7% of heart disease cases.
The agency recommends adults get at least 2.5 hours each week of moderate-intensity physical activity, including walking at a rate of 3 miles an hour or faster, and biking at a pace of slower than 10 miles per hour on relatively flat terrain.