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.

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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.

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Rates of physical inactivity among U.S. adults, 2015-2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System/CDC

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.

Rates of physical inactivity among U.S. non-Hispanic white adults, 2015-2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System/CDC

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.

Rates of physical inactivity among U.S. Hispanic adults, 2015-2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System/CDC

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.

Rates of physical inactivity among U.S. Black adults, 2015-2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System/CDC

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.

  • I’m in front of a computer all day for work. I run about 60-90 minutes a week, and walk or hike when I can. Someone else works 60 hours a week, walking for at least half that time, often carrying heavy objects. That person also has a demanding home life and has little time for leisure at all, whether for physical activity or sedentary activity. This study (or at least this interpretation of the study) presupposes that I am physically active and the other person is physically inactive. Hmm…

  • This title is inaccurate. As the first line of the article says, the CDC study showed that “All states and territories had more than 15% of adults who were physically inactive and this estimate ranged from 17.3 to 47.7%.” For the majority of places, the rate of inactivity was much higher than 15%. The title should be that “Approximately 1 in 4 U.S. Adults are Physically Inactive.” The study just highlighted how the inactivity rates varied by location.

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