Couches in Georgia are getting a lot of wear. According to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter of adults in the state are physically inactive.
It’s not just that residents aren’t going to the gym or jogging. Some 28.5% of adults here said they engaged in no leisure time physical activity or exercise in the previous month. No gardening. No walking the dog. Really, no walking that wasn’t necessary.
Georgia is among 22 states with at least 25% of adults who are physically inactive.
“We are kind of an unfriendly state when it comes to the promotion of physical activity,” said Georgia State University professor Walt Thompson, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. “And we are in good company with all of the Southern states.”
By region, the South had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (28%), followed by the Northeast (25.6%), Midwest (25%), and the West (20.5%), according to maps drawn up using self-reported data over a three-year period ending in 2018.
Thompson said Georgia lacks basic infrastructure supporting exercise, such as public transportation, which would require at least walking to a bus or subway stop. Georgia communities invest less in public parks than other states. They are less walk-friendly, more car-dependent.
Colorado had the lowest percentage of people owning up to physical inactivity, at 17.3%, and Puerto Rico had the highest, 47.7%, according to the study.
In seven other states and one territory 30% or more of the adults were physically inactive.
The CDC report found stark differences in physical inactivity levels when broken down by race and ethnicity. In the country overall, people who identified themselves as Hispanic had the highest prevalence of self-reported physical inactivity (31.7%), followed by non-Hispanic black (30.3%) and non-Hispanic white (23.4%).
In Georgia, 36.2% of Hispanic people are physically inactive, and 31% of non-Hispanic black people.
Expert say the lack of physical activity has far-ranging health consequences. Those states with the highest levels of couch potatoes also have the highest levels of obesity, as well as obesity-related illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One in 10 premature deaths can be linked to not being physically active, the CDC has said. Inadequate levels of physical activity are also associated with $117 billion in annual healthcare costs, the agency said.
National guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.
Thompson said that people who are completely inactive should avoid rushing into an ambitious exercise regimen and instead begin by making small behavioral changes — choose the stairs over an escalator, park farther away from your destination, walk the dog or take a short stroll in the neighborhood. And then, little by little, build on that physical activity, so the half-mile walk grows into a mile, and so on.
Matt Gunby, co-owner CrossFit East Decatur, recommends that those who want to become more active give serious thought to both short-term and long-term goals.
“A lot of times, people will walk in and say they want to lose 40 pounds. But we try to get deeper, and they’ll say, ‘I want to play with my kids or grandkids.’ Once they establish those goals, it can be easier to establish a commitment.”
Gunby also recommends that people get outside their comfort zone. Try something new, he said, whether that’s CrossFit, an aerobics class, or a walking club. And, he said, there’s nothing wrong with visiting several exercise clubs and programs to find a good fit.
Make it convenient, he said.
“One of the first things I ask is, ‘Where do you live?’ It’s hard enough to get a habit going four or five times a week, and you don’t want the hindrance of joining something across town,” he said.
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