Exercise is one of the most effective ways for people to improve their overall health. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of depression, weight gain, and certain chronic diseases, while improving cognitive function, sleep quality, and physical balance — among many other benefits.
Still, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of all American adults are not getting enough exercise — and over 55 million American adults, or 22.7% of the 20 and older population, lead completely sedentary lifestyles. Physical inactivity leads to about one in every 10 premature deaths in the U.S. and costs the health care system an estimated $117 billion annually, according to the CDC.
Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, 24/7 Tempo identified America’s laziest states. States are ranked on the share of adults 20 and older who report no leisure-time physical activity.
Depending on the state, inactivity rates range from less than 15% to over 30%. States with the most physically active populations tend to be concentrated in the West, while those with the largest shares of adults who never exercise are in the South.
Given the benefits associated with regular exercise, it is perhaps not surprising that overall health outcomes are often better in states where larger shares of the population are physically active. For example, in most states where adults are less likely to exercise regularly, both the obesity rate and the share of adults who report being in fair or poor health are higher than the respective national averages of 29.7% and 16.5%. Here is a look at the most obese states in America.
Meanwhile, in states where exercise is more common, residents are generally less likely to be obese or in fair or poor health than the typical American.