The Laziest County in Every State

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Exercise is one of the most effective ways for people to improve their overall health. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of depression, weight gain, and certain chronic diseases, while improving cognitive function, sleep quality, and physical balance — among many other benefits. 

Though the importance of physical activity is well established, over 55 million American adults lead completely sedentary lifestyles. Physical inactivity accounts for about one in every 10 premature deaths in the U.S. and also has broader social costs — presenting an estimated $117 billion burden on the health care system annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Insufficient exercise is a major public health challenge across the United States, but in some parts of the country, the problem is far worse than in others. 

Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, 24/7 Tempo identified the least physically active county in each state. County and county equivalents are ranked by the share of adults 20 or older who never exercise in their leisure time.

Though each county or county equivalent on this list ranks as the least physically active in its state, the share of adults who do not exercise varies considerably in these places — from 20% to over 50%. Nationwide, 22.7% of adults do not exercise in their leisure time.  

Given the benefits associated with regular exercise, it is perhaps not surprising that overall health outcomes are often worse in places where larger shares of the population are not physically active. For example, in all but a few counties on this list, both the obesity rate and the share of adults who report being in fair or poor health are higher than the respective statewide averages. Here is a look at the most obese states in America

For many residents of the counties on this list, a lack of regular physical exercise is partially attributable to limited opportunities. In a majority of these counties, the share of the population living in close proximity to places to exercise, like parks or recreational facilities, is well below the 84.2% national average.

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