Is Your State a Couch Potato? See the Latest Fitness Ranking!

Physical activity is essential for leading a healthy life. It is a well-known fact that people who participate in regular physical activities can live longer and are less prone to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Striving to stay active can make a significant difference in overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released their State Indicator Report on Physical Activity for 2014, which highlights physical activity behavior and interventions across the United States. So, where does your state rank?

State-by-State Comparisons

The State Indicator Report on Physical Activity is an excellent resource that provides key information on physical activity levels, access to exercise opportunities, as well as regulatory policies throughout each state. Not only does the report showcase each state’s efforts in promoting physical fitness, but also highlights areas where each state can improve. State health departments use this data in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental partners to facilitate the creation of improved policies, safe places for physical activity, and to enhance physical education in schools and child care settings.

Breaking Down the Results

One variable discussed in the report is the presence of park access, or the percentage of the population living within half a mile of a park. In this category, the results varied dramatically between states. Colorado leads the way, with 87.2% of its population living close to parks, while Mississippi is lagging behind at a mere 21.1%. Another variable the report examines is walkability, or the percentage of streets with sidewalks on both sides. In Connecticut, 80.6% of the streets fit this criterion, while Mississippi comes in last in this category as well, with only 25.6% offering sidewalks on both sides.

The report also highlights the percentage of individuals who are physically inactive in each state. Physical inactivity rates range from a low of 16.1% in Colorado to a high of 32.5% in Mississippi. States with the lowest levels of physical inactivity are concentrated in the West, whereas high levels of inactivity are found in the southern states. In addition, the report examines regulatory policies providing physical education in schools. School-based physical education policy data reveals that 30% of states have strong policies and guidelines for physical education, while 40% have moderate policies, and 30% have weak or non-existent policies.

Examples of Effective Initiatives

To read more about specific initiatives, including Michigan’s Complete Streets Initiative and Boston’s Bike-to-Market program, you can review the full report on the CDC website. The report highlights various initiatives that are significantly improving physical activity levels and health outcomes within different states.

Michigan’s Complete Streets Initiative advocates for designing, planning, and operating roadways that are safe and accessible for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation passengers. In part due to this initiative, Michigan has seen an increase in the percentage of streets with sidewalks on both sides.

Boston’s Bike-to-Market Program is a part of the Boston Cyclists Union and provides free bike repair services and cycling education for adults and children at farmer’s markets throughout the city. This initiative not only promotes the use of bicycles instead of cars, but also encourages healthy eating habits through the farmer’s markets.

The Importance of Encouraging Physical Activity

The CDC report provides critical insights for each state, enabling them to create and improve strategies to promote physical activity amongst their residents. It is crucial for states to recognize the importance of providing access to safe, accessible spaces for physical activity, strong school-based physical education policies, and initiatives that encourage and educate residents about the importance of physical fitness.

Ultimately, state-level efforts to encourage regular physical activity will lead to improved health and a decrease in the prevalence of chronic conditions and diseases related to an inactive lifestyle. By taking part in regular physical activities, individuals can significantly increase their quality of life and protect themselves from avoidable health issues. So, consider utilizing the parks, sidewalks, and cycling trails in your state to maintain ongoing physical fitness and make your state a healthier place to live.