America's Couch-Potato States

These 10 states have the lowest levels of physical activity
Staff Writer


This is a shocking pair of numbers: Four out of five Americans don’t meet the U.S. federal government’s basic guidelines for recommended regular physical activity when it comes to aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise; three out of five Americans aren’t sufficiently physically active to get any health benefits from what scant exercise they do take. 

If anything, the situation is getting worse. Forty states have rising levels of inactivity, a new report says.

At The Active Times, we take as an article of faith the notion that regular physical activity, preferably in the great outdoors, produces longterm health benefits. But there is plenty of scientific evidence that being physically active and eating a healthy diet promote not only good health but also reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. 

A sedentary lifestyle — one that is physically inactive — costs adults more in healthcare and, more seriously, raises their risk of mortality. Litte surprise, the Centers for Disease Controls note, that doctors are starting to prescribe exercise rather than medications for diseases linked to inactivity.

There is also academic evidence that sedentary parents pass on their lifestyle habits to their children — and vice versa. Our accompanying slideshows contain data that shows a correlation between physical activity (or the lack of it) and obesity rates in both adults and teenagers.

Our ranking of the most inactive states is based on surveys of adults who say that they did not engage in any physical activity or exercise during the previous 30 days — none, nada, zip —  other than doing their regular jobs. The data is sourced from the latest annual report on U.S. obesity published jointly by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Our list is topped by Mississippi followed by Tennessee and Arkansas. Southern states predominate. Southerners generally have less opportunity to exercise outdoors than their Northern and Western counterparts, and the heat further discourages them from doing so. Mississippi’s physical inactivity rate at 38.1% is twice as high as that of the most active state, Colorado, at 17.9%.

Even if you cannot build biking, hiking and snow sports into your daily routine like a Coloradan can, you can take advantage of one simple exercise program that anyone from teenager to senior or any age in between and of any weight can do at home. It doesn't require special equipment and it isn't a boot camp.

It is designed to bring you up gradually to a healthy level of fitness and take off the pounds with a daily 12-minute routine (see: How a Half-Century-Old Exercise Plan and 12 Minutes a Day Could Make You Your Fittest Yet). We have laid out easy to follow instructions for each exercise and day-by-day goals.

We also have tips on how to lose the last 10 pounds, how to build exercise seamlessly into your daily routine by moving more at work, and how to burn 100 calories in 10 minutes. You can always find our latest advice and support in our fitness channel

America's Couch Potato States: #10 Texas

Physical Inactivity Rate: 30.1%

Ranks 15th in nation for adult obesity and 5th for obesity among high-school students.


America's Couch Potato States #9: Kentucky

Physical Inactivity Rate: 30.2%

Ranks 5th in nation for adult obesity and 1st for obesity among high-school students.

Click here to see America's Couch Potato States from #8 through #1.

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