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SALT LAKE CITY — A recent national report finds Utah is moving up the charts as one of the most active states in the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last week finds that Utah is second in the U.S. in terms of physical activity, and one of four states in the country where fewer than 20% of adults are considered physically inactive. It was listed as the third-most active state in a 2020 report.
Activity is defined by the agency as any physical activity outside of work, such as running, walking for exercise or even gardening. The data was collected through self-reporting to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
The high ranking is important because physical activity can help prevent 1 in every 10 premature death, said Dr. Ruth Petersen, the director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. Physical inactivity is also associated with tens of billions of dollars in annual health care costs, the agency reports.
"Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity, such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers and dementia — including Alzheimer's disease," Petersen said, in a statement.
Only about 18.2% of people in Utah reported regular physical inactivity from 2017 through 2020, according to the new report. The results indicate Utah may be getting a bit more active even as the nation gets less active because the CDC released a similar report two years ago, where 18.6% of Americans reported physical inactivity between 2015 and 2018.
Since two of the years of data — 2017 and 2018 — overlap, it's difficult to compare trends into why the number decreased. Still, Utah's inactivity rate in the latest report is much lower than the national average of 25.3%.
Utah also jumped ahead from the third-most active state in the 2020 report to No. 2 in the report released last week.
In all, the West again exhibited the most activity among U.S. regions, with just 21% of people living in the region reporting physical inactivity. Colorado, topped the list as the most active state in the nation for the second year in a row. Only 17.7% of Colorado residents reported inactivity between 2017 and 2020.
The Beehive State surpassed Washington, which fell to third, with 18.4% reporting inactivity. Vermont, at 19.6%, was the only other state with an inactivity rate below 20%, while the District of Columbia (20.2%) rounded out the top five among U.S. states, territories and districts.
The South had the highest rate of inactivity, with 27.5% of residents there reporting inactivity. Of states and territories, Puerto Rico had the highest rate of inactivity, at 49.4%. It was followed by Mississippi (33.2%), Kentucky (32.5%), Arkansas (31.1%) and Louisiana (30.8%).
There was insufficient data to include New Jersey in the list.
The report also found that a divide between race and ethnicity still exists within Americans in terms of being active outside. For instance, only non-Hispanic Asian (20.1%) and non-Hispanic white (23%) adults in the U.S. reported the lowest rates of inactivity, compared to Hispanic adults (32.1%) and non-Hispanic, Black (30%) adults, who had the highest rates.
This trend was also true in Utah, although the highest rate reported among any racial or ethnic groups was 28.9%, which was Hispanic adults, according to the CDC data.
The agency said it is working with communities and partners across the country to find ways to make physical activity "easier, safer and more convenient," in an effort to lower not just the divide, but inactivity levels nationwide.
"The overall goal of the initiative is to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027 — to improve overall health and quality of life and to reduce healthcare costs," the CDC report states. "Building active and walkable communities may also help support local economies and create more cohesive communities."