States With the Most Health-Conscious Residents

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In 2016, a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings culled data from the 2003 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using data from 5,000 U.S. adults, it is one of the largest surveys of its kind. 

Looking at four good-for-you lifestyle behaviors – eating well, exercising, and managing body fat – the study revealed that only 2.7% of those surveyed reported following all four standards. Diving deeper into the results, the report found that 38% ate healthy, 47% were active, but a mere 10% had a normal body fat level. 

Another survey, this one conducted in 2019 by MedicareAdvantage (and based on a small sample size of 500), revealed a disconnect between Americans’ perception of their health and what they actually do to stay healthy. For example, nearly half of those who say they’re healthier compared to previous generations are in fact overweight. Meanwhile, 87% of those who never or infrequently consume fruits and vegetables believe they are in “good” or “excellent” health. Similarly, 77% who said they never or infrequently work out say they are in “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” health. And 85% of regular tobacco or e-cigarette users think they are in better health than the average American. 

To determine the fittest and fattest states, 24/7 Tempo developed an index of various health behaviors and access to locations for physical activity. Data on the number of fitness and recreational sports centers per 10,000 establishments and the number of specialty food stores – a proxy for health food stores – per 10,000 establishments was calculated using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 County Business Patterns and were included in the index at full weight. 

Data on the percentage of adults who consume two or more fruits and three or more vegetables daily and the percentage of adults who regularly exercise – meeting meet federal activity guidelines or 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity and two days of muscle strengthening per week – came from the CDC’s 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and were both included in the index at double weight. (These are the cities where the fewest people exercise.)

Five-year data on the percentage of commuters who bike or walk to work came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey and were included in the index at full weight. 

By these standards, Vermonters are the healthiest people in the country. They rank the highest for working out and eating fruits and vegetables. The unhealthiest? Kentuckians, where fewer than 5% consume fruits and vegetables and only 15.3% exercise regularly –  both the lowest scores in the U.S. (These are the states with the most unreliable access to healthy foods.)

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