Louisiana: Most Unfit State in the Union

12:01 January 21, 2020
By: Molly Kellogg

The CDC and state departments have collaborated to create a series of state maps based on levels of physical inactivity. They collected the data through an ongoing, state-based, telephone interview survey, known as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. According to their work, all states and territories had at least 15 percent of adults who classified themselves as physically inactive. Inactivity levels also varied on other levels, such as race and ethnicity, or location.

Physical inactivity is explained as spending no time participating in leisure-time physical activity in the past four weeks, whether it be walking around the block or golf with a buddy. Survey respondents were categorized as physically inactive if they replied "no" to the following question: "During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, walking for exercise?"

Using consolidated data from 2015 all the way to 2018, the maps present a striking difference in the prevalence of physical inactivity by race/ethnicity. Hispanics had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity, followed by non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites. In most states, non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics had significantly higher rates of physical inactivity than non-Hispanic whites. From the statistics, we can assume some sort of correlation with physical inactivity and race. So why is there such a racial gap when it comes to exercise? How does race play a role?

The South had the highest rates of physical inactivity. It also has the highest rates of poverty in the nation and in some areas, is also incredibly racially diverse. It is interesting to consider how these factors cope with one another. Could race and economic status play a role in whether one exercises or not?

Let's take a look at Louisiana. On the map, the state is shaded dark red, to suggest levels of high physical inactivity in the state. As the above statistics point out, non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics reported significantly higher rates of physical inactivity than non-Hispanic whites. Louisiana is home to large black and Hispanic communities, which might help explain the higher levels of physical inactivity.

According to the CDC and state department, Louisiana, alone, reported 30% or more of adults considered themselves to be physically inactive. This means no leisure-time physical activity, no time spent walking, gardening or golfing. So what factors could be contributing to these high rates? Why aren't people exercising?

It doesn't help that Louisiana's poverty line is one of the highest in the nation. Nearly a fifth of residents lives in poverty. When you live under the poverty line, exercise is not the first priority, it is not even the second. When you're trying to make ends meet, it is easy to let things like going for a run or gardening get away from you.

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