At first read, the news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounds none-to-good for the Old North State: “Americans who live in parts of Appalachia and the South are the least likely to be physically active in their leisure time … .” Read on, though, and you discover that Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee are the prime offenders. “In those states, physical inactivity rates are 29.2 percent or greater for more than 70 percent of the counties.” By “physical inactivity” they mean these people get no exercise outside of their regular jobs (which could be sedentary as well). The national average, as of 2008, was 25.4 percent, meaning a quarter of Americans get no leisure exercise
North Carolina’s absence from the Bottom 6 doesn’t mean the state is a beacon of good health. We still rank 13th nationally in terms of obese residents, with 29.3 percent of North Carolinians clocking a BMI of 30.0 or higher. But drill down into the North Carolina numbers and you discover geopolitical pockets of good news.
The most active county in the state? Orange, home of Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina’s home campus, where just 16.2 percent of residents get no exercise outside work. No surprise there: walkers and bikers in Chapel Hill at least far outnumber folks in cars.
Close behind are the state’s most populated counties: Wake County (Raleigh, Cary) at 19 percent and Mecklenburg (Charlotte) at 19.9 percent. Also in good stead: New Hanover County (Wilmington), 20.8 percent; Chatham County on the Triangle’s fringe (20.9 percent) and mountainous Watauga (18.9 percent), Buncombe (19.2 percent), Avery (20.1 percent), Henderson (20.9 percent), and Polk (20.9 percent) counties. On the downside, in 14 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, more than 30 percent of residents are inactive. The worst: Robeson County, at 37 percent.
For comparison, the nation’s most active states were California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, all with at least 70 percent of counties reporting inactivity levels of 23.2 percent or lower. Four of the five most active counties in the country — Boulder (Boulder), Douglas (suburban Denver), Eagle and Routt (both in the mountains) — were in Colorado.
Photo: Get off the couch or this could be you.