Being active offers immediate benefits like feeling better and sleeping better. It also offers long-term benefits in the form of disease prevention, with research suggesting that meeting federal physical activity guidelines could prevent 1 in 15 cases of heart disease. Physical activity guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and at least two days of muscle-strengthening activity each week.
The CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) asks whether people are meeting physical activity guidelines, and that data has long been reported in the Benchmarking Report on Bicycling and Walking. But, BRFSS also asks about physical inactivity, asking “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?”
Just as physical activity has benefits, inactivity has consequences. Those consequences are higher risks for a variety of chronic diseases and injury, including a greater likelihood to be hospitalized or die due to Covid-19.
In recently released BRFSS data, the CDC highlighted state and demographic differences in physical inactivity in the United States. Overall, the prevalence of physical inactivity was 25.3%.
Lack of access to safe and convenient places to be physically active is part of why we see differences between states and differences between demographic groups. That is why the Active People Healthy Nation initiative makes activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations a key strategy for increasing physical activity in the United States. As the Benchmarking Report has long observed, places where more people bike and walk to work have higher rates of physical activity, and the new BRFSS data reinforces this correlation and strategy.