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Health: Physical activity has important rewards

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its data on levels of inactivity among Americans. According to the maps, 25% of Americans are not active enough to maintain their health. That sounds bad enough. But a look at West Virginia’s numbers is even worse. More than 30% of Mountain State adults are listed as being inactive, meaning they had not logged ANY physical activity in a one-month period.

For purposes of the report, the CDC is talking about physical activity outside of work, such as running, walking for exercise or even gardening. Other states listed as inactive as West Virginia were Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and the territory of Puerto Rico.

Yes, those are also poorer states and/or in Appalachia and the South. It’s a no brainer to conclude there are factors at work beyond simple laziness. But as communities we’ve got to do a better job of educating people of all ages about the need to remain physically active.

“Getting enough physical activity could prevent one in 10 premature deaths,” said Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of the CDC’s division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity. “Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity, such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers and dementia.”

While a particularly snowy and cold stretch of winter might not be the best time to think about it, we live in one of the best states in the country for getting outside and enjoying some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a sweaty, hardcore, hours-long workout at the gym (though if that’s what you enjoy, go for it). Being more active can be as simple as enjoying a walk on one of our many beautiful community trails for half an hour, a few days a week. It doesn’t have to cost anything or take up a lot of your hard-earned time off.

And you never know, you might find you enjoy it. Certainly, your health will be better for it.

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