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Local News

Pennsylvania inactivity levels are below the national average, but a closer look exposes sharp disparities between different groups

Credit: iStock

Anzhe Zhang

Pennsylvania’s inactivity levels fall marginally below the national average, according to a CDC report released earlier this year that estimated one in five adults were inactive in nearly every state across the nation. 

In a set of inactivity prevalence maps released by the CDC, Pennsylvania had an inactivity prevalence percentage of 24.7 percent, slightly below the 25.3 percent national average. 

The data, compiled from surveys by the CDC and state health departments across 2017-2020, determines inactivity as not having participated in “any physical activities outside of work over the last month.” It calls attention to a health concern that was growing even before the pandemic brought many activities to a halt.

While Pennsylvania’s overall inactivity levels were in the yellow 20 to 25 percent range, the data shows notable disparities in inactivity levels by race and ethnicity. According to the U.S. census, an estimated 18.4 percent of state residents in Pennsylvania are non-white.

Other than Non-Hispanic/White adults with an inactivity prevalence of 23.6 percent, Non-Hispanic/Asian adults were the only demographic with an inactivity level below the state average, reported at 22.7 percent.

Demographics that saw the highest percentage of inactivity prevalence were Non-Hispanic/Black adults and Hispanic adults, with percentages of 28.5 percent and 32.3 percent, respectively, markedly higher than both the state and national average.

Non-Hispanic/American Indian/Alaska Native adults had an inactivity prevalence level of 22.7 percent, but adjusting for the smaller sample size, the CDC estimates inactivity levels are closer to being over 30 percent.

The wide disparities between inactivity prevalence percentages among different demographics within the state highlights a broader array of issues that may be contributing to health outcome gaps between ethnicities, with many communities lacking access to activity incentives like public spaces, open sidewalks, and social networks to foster healthy physical activity.

The gap between demographics when it comes to inactivity levels also highlights the ways income and class affects health, with Non-Hispanic/Asian and Non-Hispanic/White adults being both the highest-earningdemographics in the state and having the lowest inactivity prevalence percentages.