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In US, 28% of Adults Over 50 Get No Exercise


The report showed a strong connection between states with high rates of inactivity and those with the highest rates of obesity.

Twenty-eight percent of American adults age 50 years or older are inactive—meaning they don’t move beyond what’s necessary to get through the day, according to data released by the CDC

this week.

Rates are worse for women than men, with 29.4% of women and 25.5% of men reporting being inactive in data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Inactivity rates were higher among minority groups and increased with age, with rates highest among African Americans (33.1%), followed by Hispanics (32.7%), other ethnic groups (27.1%), and whites (26.2%).

“Adults benefit from any amount of physical activity,” said Janet E. Fulton, PhD, chief of CDC’s Physical Activity and Health Branch and an author of the report. “Helping inactive people become more physically active is an important step towards healthier and more vibrant communities.”

Even just 22 minutes of walking each day can make a difference, according to a report issued a year ago this month by US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD. At an announcement to tout the benefits of daily walking, Murthy and health officials said a lack of physical activity like walking doesn’t just contribute to health problems—it is the health problem that leads to chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart failure.

Indeed, the data released by CDC show that those with at least 1 chronic condition were inactive (31.9%) compared with those without a chronic condition (19.2%). And, inactivity was highest in the South (30.1%), where rates of diabetes and obesity are also highest, followed by the Midwest (28.4%), and the Northeast (26.6%). Inactivity was lowest in the West (23.1%).

Lack of activity comes at a cost. Adults over age 50 outside institutions account for $860 billion in healthcare costs each year, yet 4 of the 5 most costly chronic conditions for this group can be managed with physical activity. Active older adults also have reduced risk of falls and limitations, and are at less risk of suffering from dementia and cognitive decline.

Rates of inactivity ranged from 17.9% in Colorado, which as the nation’s lowest rate of obesity, and were highest in Arkansas (38.8%), which, until last year, had the nation’s highest obesity rate until it was recently passed by Louisiana.

Breaking a pattern of inactivity is important, because the data show that increasing activity becomes more difficult as people age. Inactivity rates were 25.4% for adults 50-64 years, 26.9% for those 65-74 years, and 35.3% for those 75 or older.


Watson KB, Carlson SA, Gunn JP, et al. Physical inactivity among adults aged 50 years and older—United States, 2014. Morb Mort Wkly Rep. 2016;65:954-958. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6536a3

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