Nationally, the share of adults who meet or exceed federal exercise guidelines is on the rise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults ages 18-64 engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate exercise — about 20 to 40 minutes a day.
Over 53% of adult Americans met the exercise requirements in 2018, compared to nearly 52% in 2016 and 41.4% a decade earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While this is encouraging news, not all cities boast high exercise rates.
To determine the metropolitan area where residents are getting the least exercise, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the 2021 County Health Rankings on the percentage of adults who are physically active and the percentage of the population with access to a location appropriate for exercise.
About 22.7% of adult Americans report that they do not get any physical activity in their leisure time.
Five of the 10 cities with the lowest share of adults who exercise or engage in any physical activity in their free time are in Georgia. In fact, most of the cities with the lowest percentage of adults exercising are in the South.
Exercise has been shown to be a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy weight as it helps burn body fat and build muscle tissue. Physical activity is also linked to better overall quality of life as well as longer life. Some research shows that even just 15 minutes a day of physical activity provides benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some common types of cancer.
Consistent lack of exercise appears to play a role in certain unhealthy outcomes. All but three of the 50 cities where adults get the least exercise, have an adult obesity rate that is higher than the national rate of 29.7%. All 50 cities on this list have a higher share of the adult population reporting being in poor or fair health than the U.S. share of 16.5%. These are the most obese places in America.
Income also appears to correlate with activity rates. All but one of the 50 cities where the lowest share of adults exercise have a median annual household income lower than the national median of nearly $66,000. Wealthier people are more likely to exercise as they generally have more time and money to spare on different activity options.
To determine the U.S. cities getting the least exercise, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data about adults who are physically active in all 382 metro areas in the United States. The measure came from the 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR), a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Obesity rates — the share of adult residents who report a body mass index of 30 or greater — as well as the share of adults who have access to exercise facilities and the share of the population reporting to be in fair or poor health also came from the 2021 CHR. All CHR data is for the most recent year available.
The age-adjusted percentage of the total population 20 years and over diagnosed with diabetes in 2017, the latest year for which data is available, also came from the 2021 CHR. Diabetes age-adjusted rates were provided at the county level, which were then aggregated to the metropolitan level using a weighted average, based on the percentage of the 2019 5-year population of each county within each metro area.
Population figures, as well as median household income, and poverty rate came from the American Community Survey 2019 5-Year Estimates.
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