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

 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?


Digging up couch potatoes

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Graphic care of CDC


Comments () | Archives (14)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Diane C.

Based on my experience in Los Angeles, I don't know how people find the time to drive to biking trails, the traffic is so bad. The traffic is so bad, it just makes you want to curl up on the couch and pull out the remote.

Pete D

Too many Angelenos choose to live in isolated suburban areas, where they have to get in a car and drive to do anything, even exercise. The answer? Make better choices about where to live - and choose to live in neighborhoods where you can walk, bike, and take transit to local parks, stores, and restaurants. Younger people, and environmentally-concerned people, are increasingly make those good choices. We need to encourage more people to change their mentality. Do you really want to harm your health, and hurt the environment, just so that you can live in an isolated gated compound?


I would LOVE to bike the city streets, but it's just not safe, not even on the Westside. I could easily bike to and from work, and run most of my errands.

It's illegal to bike the sidewalks, but a lot of people do, including me, when I really want to bike somewhere.

The last time I tried to bike on the L.A. River, from Culver City to the beach, I was threatened by four adult men who were hanging out on the bike path, so I won't do that again. But it's a short, fun ride to the beach, and I miss it.

And, no, I don't live in a gated community - an apartment in West L.A.


Laura, you have a very valid point, this is why off street, creek side etc. bike paths in urban areas don't work, they are very difficult to police and especially at night very dangerous. Also from legal standpoint, its at your own risk on mixed use off street bike paths. These paths also tend to not go where most people are going.

What we need is physically separated, bollards etc, bike lanes on every major arterial in LA, just like market street in San Francisco.

Minor costs, major benefits, health and otherwise.

Christopher Kidd


It's not illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in the City of Los Angeles.


" Close to 20% of Los Angeles County is inactive"

That's it? A lot of people are lying.


LA is a third-world city, so you're always risking bodily harm or worse.


Agreed. Third world city, unsafe. Drive to where it's (a bit) safer to bike!

Josef Bray-Ali

I live in the 'hood and bike nearly every day to get around, go shopping, go to work, pick up and drop off my kid.

People here aren't more active because the streets are terrible places to do anything but drive. our community is over-run by LADOT staff more interested in their 50-mile commute into Downtown from Walnut over the safety and health of the citizens for whom they work!

Our mayor, and the council, had best wake up and get to work before they find themselves booted out of office the way Tom LaBonge is looking to be.


LA a third-world city? Check the map: why not move to Mississippi or Kentucky, where the nexus of right-wing wackos, poverty, and laziness might suit you better.


LA a third-world city? Check the map: why not move to Mississippi or Kentucky, where the nexus of right-wing wackos, poverty, and laziness might suit you better.


LA a third-world city? Check the map: why not move to Mississippi or Kentucky, where the nexus of right-wing wackos, poverty, and laziness might suit you better.


I question the methodology that created this map. I've lived in many parts of the country, including LA and several of the dark blue areas that are considered to be more active. Not true.

I suspect the survey included outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, as well as the type of work performed as employment. That would explain the dark blue in eastern Kentucky, eastern Oklahoma, and much of the lower mid-west and southern states. And don't forget dark blue northern Alaska.

In my estimation the map is almost an opposite reflection of reality, or at least of the general fitness level of the population.


The graph shows L.A. is the first quintile of activity, so why are we saying we're inactive? The more blue the shade the higher the percentage of "INactive" people. Look at the map and the heading again. OK, fine, near 20% may be worse than Santa Cruz, but it's still a great better than four-fifths of the country.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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