Americans Living in South Least Active: CDC

States where residents are the least likely to be physically active during leisure time are Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Americans who live in parts of Appalachia and the South are the least likely to be physically active in their leisure time, according to estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In many counties in those regions, more than 29 percent of adults reported getting no physical activity or exercise other than at their regular job.

The 2004-2008 estimates, posted online at www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics, provide county-level estimates for leisure-time physical inactivity for all U.S. counties. Areas where residents are most likely to be active in their free time are the West Coast, Colorado, Minnesota, and parts of the Northeast.

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

A 2008 CDC survey found that 25.4 percent of U.S. adults did not spend any of their free time being physically active, including activities such as walking for exercise, gardening, golfing, or running.

CDC previously released maps with estimated levels of diabetes and obesity for all U.S. counties. Combining all three factors produces a map that shows the highest levels of diagnosed diabetes, leisure-time physical inactivity and obesity in the South and parts of Appalachia. The regions with the lowest levels of all three are the West and Northeast.

Physical activity can help control weight, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health.

"Physical activity is crucial to managing diabetes and reducing serious complications of the disease," said Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. "Moderate intensity activities 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 county level leisure-time physical inactivity estimates come from CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which uses self-reported data from state-based adult telephone surveys, and 2007 census information. Those participating in the survey were asked if they participated in any physical activities or exercise outside of their regular job.

To see county-level estimates of physical inactivity, obesity, and diagnosed diabetes, go to www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics.

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