Special Report

The Couch Potato Capital of Every State

Detailed Findings & Methodology:

Physical activity, along with a nutritious diet, are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise can help people maintain a healthy weight and lose excess body fat. Physical activity is also tied to living a longer life, as it can help lower the risk of several health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

There are many U.S. cities in which a significant share of residents get no exercise in their free time. These cities are not evenly distributed across the country — a higher than average share are in the southeastern part of the country. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee were the three states in which adults exercised the least. In each state, more than 30% of adults get no physical activity.

The three states in which adults exercise the most are Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — all Western states. The share of sedentary adults in each of those states is much lower than the U.S. average.

Sedentary lifestyles tend to go hand in hand with a number of other key health measures. Of the 10 states where adults get the least exercise, nine also have among the top 10 obesity rate, and eight rank among the top 10 states in terms of adults reporting being in fair or poor health.

Certain socioeconomic factors correlate with how likely someone is to get enough physical activity. People with higher educational attainment, such as a college degree, are more likely to be physically active than someone with less education. People who are well educated tend to be better equipped to make smart health choices.

People living above the poverty line also tend to exercise more, as gym memberships can be costly. Also, people living in poverty may have to work more than one job to make ends meet, leaving them with less time and energy to exercise.

Exercise is just one component of physical fitness. Diet also makes a huge impact on whether someone is in shape. Working out and eating a healthy diet can help prevent chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type II diabetes, according to the CDC.

To identify the cities getting the least exercise, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of two measures: the share of adults in a metro area who are physically active during their leisure time and the share of the population who has access to areas of physical activities outside of their homes. Information on leisure time physical activity, access to exercise locations, obesity rate, and adults who report being in fair or poor health comes from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Population figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.