Where Do the Most Active People Live?

CDC Study Reveals Which Americans Have the Most Physically Active Leisure Time

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on February 16, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 16, 2011 -- People in the South and the Appalachian region are the least likely of all Americans to be physically active in their leisure time, the CDC says in a new report.

The CDC analyzed all counties in the country and found that in many regions, more than 29% of adults reported getting no physical activity or exercise at all, other than what they might get on the job.

States where residents are least likely to be physically active in leisure time are Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In those states, physical inactivity rates are 29.2% or greater for more than 70% of counties.

States where residents are most likely to be active in their free time are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

The CDC says that a 2008 survey found that 25.4% of adults in the U.S. failed to spend any free time being physically active, which includes walking, gardening, golfing, or running.

Physical Activity and Diabetes

The CDC has maps for all U.S. counties showing estimated levels of diabetes and obesity. Taken together, the maps show the highest levels of diagnosed diabetes and obesity also are found in the South and parts of Appalachia. And the regions with the lowest levels of diabetes and obesity are in the West and Northeast.

“Physical activity is crucial to managing diabetes and reducing serious complications of the disease,” the CDC’s Ann Albright, PhD, RD, says in a news release. Albright, director of the CDC’s division of diabetes translation, says even activities of moderate intensity “such as dancing or brisk walking for just 150 minutes a week can significantly improve the health of people with diabetes or at high risk for the disease.”

The CDC’s Janet E. Fulton, PhD, says chronic diseases such as diabetes and problems such as obesity can be battled if communities make it safe and easy to exercise.

“Sidewalks, street lights, and access to parks or recreation areas can encourage people to get and move more,” says Fulton, of the CDC’s division of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity.

Report on Nation’s Health

In a separate report, the CDC says the percentage of adults 45 and older who use cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins increased from 2% in 1988-1994 to 25% in 2005-2008.

Half of men between 65 and 74 had taken a statin drug in 2005-2008, compared with over a third of women in the same age range.

Other key findings of the CDC’s 34th annual health report, “Health, United States, 2010: In Brief”:

  • Among adults 18-64, the percentage who reported not receiving or delaying needed medical care in the past 12 months due to cost increased from 11% in 1997 to 15% in 2009.
  • The percentage not receiving needed prescription drugs due to cost rose from 6% to 11% in 1997-2009.
  • The percentage not getting needed dental care due to cost increased from 11% in 1997 to 17% in 2009.
  • The prevalence of poor diabetes control among people diagnosed with the disease has declined by 45% since 1988-1994 for adults aged 45-64, and by 72% for people 65 and over.
  • About 30% of adults age 18 and over reported recent pain, aching, or swelling around the joint between 2002 and 2009.
  • Reported colorectal tests and procedures between 2000 and 2008 increased for adults aged 50-75 among all racial and ethnic groups.
  • The percentage of adults taking prescription antidepressant medications rose almost fivefold between 1988 and 2008.

The report also says that 25% of deaths occurred at home in 2007, more than in previous years. The shift occurred both for people who were under age 65 at the time of death as well as those who were older. The CDC says 36% of deaths in 2007 occurred in hospitals and 22% in nursing homes.

Show Sources


News release, CDC.

News release, National Center for Health Statistics.

CDC: "Health, United States, 2010: In Brief."

Janet E. Fulton, PhD, division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, CDC.

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