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Physical activity: Angelenos are lazier than you'd think. But why?

February 23, 2011 |  2:30 pm

CDC
 Between Matthew McConaughey turning Malibu into his own personal gym, hikers conquering Runyon Canyon before free yoga in the park, and lines outside public tennis courts, you'd think Angelenos live to exercise. As it turns out, we're not that physically active. In fact, the residents of Santa Cruz are more active than we are. So are the folks in Minnesota. This is according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has created a map (above) detailing the country's rate of physical activity -- and lack thereof -- down to the county level. The question the research doesn't answer, though, is why. And the editorial board would like to know:

What we don't yet know is exactly why people are rising from their couches in some corners of the country — and even within each state — and why others aren't. Yes, weather and to some extent affluence offer more opportunities. But that doesn't account for why 18% of the adults in San Diego County get no exercise, compared with 12% in Santa Cruz County, the most physically active county in California (and where the local University of California campus would be justified in changing its mascot from the banana slug). Close to 20% of Los Angeles County is inactive, but that's still lower than the nearly 24% in Kern County.

Now that the CDC has done the quantitative analysis, the nation needs a qualitative parsing of the factors behind these differences. How much are diet and exercise a matter of deeply rooted societal traditions, and to what extent would something as simple as bicycle lanes help?

With respect to Los Angeles, perhaps our less-than-perfect ranking has to do with how we drive everywhere, even to the hiking trails, even to popular cycling locations, where you'll see people get out of their cars and then hop on their bikes. Rather than integrating the physical activity into our daily lives, we set aside time for it.

Your thoughts?

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--Alexandra Le Tellier

Graphic care of CDC

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