It should come as no surprise that obesity is a major problem for residents of the U.S. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2016 40% of adults 20 or older were obese. This is based on a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or more. In addition, another 30% were classified as overweight (BMI of 25.0-29.9). This adds up to 70% obese or overweight. And according to the CDC, obesity alone was responsible for $147 billion (that’s Billion with a big “B”!) per year. Clearly, if we’re going to tackle the problem of rising healthcare costs, solving the obesity epidemic has to be part of the solution.
The CDC has now published maps showing the amount of physical inactivity by state. “Physical inactivity” in this case is defined as no leisure-time physical activity in the past month. The color-coded maps show the percentage of inactive residents. Regardless of your political leanings, this is an instance where you don’t want to be from a “red state.”
As the CDC date demonstrates, people in the south central states get the least amount of exercise on average compared with the rest of the country. While Colorado, Washington, Utah and Oregon came out best, no states had less than 15% of their population who were physically inactive.
Now, there may not be a straight line connection from physical inactivity to obesity through to higher healthcare costs, but it is a logical assumption to make. This data may help individual states gain a better understanding of how the inactivity of their residents might be impacting public resources such as Medicaid, and guide them to establish programs to help address the problem.
The CDC is trying to help. Their “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This can be in 25 to 30 minute segments throughout the week and still be beneficial. The CDC is encouraging community leaders to support programs for residents of all ages that lead to physical activity. Something as simple as talking a short walk could help free up that $147 billion for other uses.