This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its State Indicator Report on Physical Activity for 2014, which found that only 56.3 percent of adults in Massachusetts meet weekly physical activity guidelines. This statistic becomes especially interesting when you juxtapose it with the rate of obese or overweight adults in the state. More than half of Massachusetts adults and one-third of high school and middle school students are overweight or obese, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
State health officials still consider obesity to be a major public health problem despite the fact that Massachusetts has a lower rate of obesity than most states. The data supports what we all know: physical activity is the key to maintaining a healthy weight.
The CDC recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of activity at moderate intensity for “substantial” health benefits. Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
In the report, the CDC broke down adult behavior health indicators for weekly activity:
- No leisure time physical activity
- 150 minutes of aerobic activity
- 300 minutes of aerobic activity
- Engaged in muscle strengthening exercises
- Met both 150 aerobic activity guideline and did muscle strengthening exercises.
In most New England states (except Rhode Island), 20 to 25 percent of adults met aerobic and muscle strengthening physical activity guidelines, according to the report’s 2011 data.
The Boston Public Health Commission released its 2013 data to Boston.com to compare where city residents fall on the CDC’s health indicators. We put that data in a comparison chart alongside Massachusetts and the national averages.
“With over half of Massachusetts adults meeting the 150 minute per week physical activity recommendation by CDC, we know this will result in substantial health benefits for our population including reduction in chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Lea Susan Ojamaa, Director of Prevention and Wellness, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in an email exchange.
The CDC outlines three major strategies for states to help residents increase physical activity:
1. Improve access to safe places for physical activity.
2. Improve physical education and physical activity in schools and child care.
3. Support policies to improve streets and communities with designs that promote physical activity.
Massachusetts is above the national average in a few of the CDC’s key indicators. More than 63 percent of youth in the state have access to parks, community centers, and sidewalks in their neightborhoods, which is above the national average of 54.5 percent. More than 49 percent of state residents live within a 1/2 mile of a park, which is above the national average of 39.2 percent.
The report states that youth without access to opportunities such as parks, playgrouns, or recreation centers for physical activity outside of school hours are less likely to be active as their peers. According to the report, people who live closer to parks are more likely to visit parks and be physically active more than people who live farther away.
The CDC recommends that physical activity should be a part of each student’s school day, and provide “substantial percentage” the recommended daily amount of activity in a physical education class.
Massachusetts provides no policy guidance on time school-age children spend in moderate to vigorous physical activity during school, which 28 states do nationally. The state also does not provide policy guidance on recess, which 30 states do nationally. Massachusetts does, however, have policy guidance on walking or biking to school, which outlines safe routes for children to walk to school in many communities around the Greater Boston area.
Here’s how children and adolescents in Massachusetts break down:
- 13.2 percent have no physical activity per week.
- 23.0 percent met the 150 minute weekly aerobic activity guideline.
- 16.7 percent received daily physical education.
“Our job is not yet done, and DPH remains committed to increasing opportunities for physical activity where people live, learn, work and play. Our Mass in Motion communities are hard at work improving the Commonwealth’s streets, sidewalks, trails and parks so that our community environments support walking, biking, physical fitness and active play,” said Ojamaa.
Download the entire report with recommendations for Massachusetts from the CDC.