Good portion of county, state not active in free time

Published 7:27 pm Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chilton County residents are, on average, slightly more active than other Alabama residents, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s not a point to brag about though, since Alabama ranks as one of the nation’s least active states.

The 2008 survey found 32.1 percent of Chilton County adults were not physically active during free or leisure time. This ranks 27th out of Alabama’s 67 counties.

Walker County had the highest percentage of couch potatoes (37.4 percent inactivity), while Shelby had the most active residents (24.4 percent inactivity).

Nationwide, Alabama is listed as one of the most inactive states, along with Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee. In these states, physical inactivity rates are 29.2 percent or greater for more than 70 percent of the counties.

“When you look at the activities we have in rural counties, there is not a lot of physical activity,” said Valerie Conner, regional extension agent of human diet nutrition and health. “We don’t have street lights so it’s not safe at night, and we do not have sidewalks and people have been killed walking on the highways.”

Numerous factors could have affected the outcome of why Chilton County and Alabama ranked so high.

Demographics could play a major role in the study’s outcome, said Jean Weese, a professor in poultry science at Auburn University and registered dietician.

“In my guess, it could be that Shelby County has a lot of people move there … who can afford to eat healthy and exercise,” said Weese. “In Baldwin (County, which had the second best rate) you have a lot of older people who walk and walk on the beach. It depends on how much time we have. It’s a very complicated issue to deal with.”

The study also shows that Americans in the South as a whole are the least likely to be physically active.

“Maybe it’s a culture,” said Conner. “Maybe we need to change our ideas and what we do.”

Areas where residents are most likely to be active in their free time are the West Coast, Colorado, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast.