Latinos Have Highest Rate of Physical Inactivity, Due to Structural Barriers


Latinos Have Highest Rate of Physical Inactivity, Due to Structural Barriers
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32.1% of Latinos are physically inactive outside of work, putting them in danger of health issues from obesity to cancer, according to a new report from CDC.

This is the highest percentage of inactivity among racial/ethnic groups.

The disparity is largely due to structural barriers like lack of access to safe and convenient places to exercise, according to the report.

“Reducing physical inactivity requires a comprehensive effort from many groups—including states, communities, worksites, and individuals—to make it easier for everyone to move more,” according to the CDC report.

Learn more about the data on physical activity, reasons why Latinos have higher rates of inactivity, and what can be done to make physical activity more equitable and accessible for Latinos and all communities.

What Does the CDC Report Say about Physical Inactivity?

CDC collected the data from 2017 to 2020 through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an ongoing state-based, telephone interview survey.

They asked adults, “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?”

The data varied widely by ethnicity, according to the CDC’s January 2022 report on the survey data.

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“Overall, non-Hispanic Asian adults (20.1%) had the lowest prevalence of physical inactivity outside of work followed by non-Hispanic White (23.0%), non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native (29.1%), non-Hispanic Black (30.0%), and Hispanic adults (32.1%),” according to the CDC report.

There’s also a wide variety in different states and regions.

“The lowest prevalence of inactivity was 17.7% (Colorado), and the highest prevalence was 49.4% (Puerto Rico). Regionally, states in the South (27.5%) had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity, followed by the Midwest (25.2%), Northeast (24.7%), and West (21.0%),” according to the CDC report.

The overall physical inactivity rate for the country is 25.3%.

Barriers to Physical Activity for Latinos

Why do Latinos have the highest rate of physical inactivity compared to any other racial/ethnic group?

One reason is lack of access to parks.

“Only 1 in 3 Latinos live within walking distance (<1 mile) of a park. Park-less Latinos miss out on space for physical activity, social interaction, and stress reduction,” according to a Salud America! research review.

Latinos also face other barriers that add to the disparity.

“The racial and ethnic disparities in physical inactivity underscore the need to address barriers to physical activity. Examples include lack of safe spaces for physical activity such as parks, unsafe streets with high-speed traffic and no sidewalks, lack of time, and lack of social supports,” according to the CDC report.

Latinos are also more likely to work in labor-intensive jobs that are often outdoors, like agriculture or construction.

Labor-intensive jobs like these may lead to more inflammation and chronic injury, which could decrease the ability to exercise outside of work.

It’s clear that more needs to be done to make physical activity more accessible to Latinos.

How Can We Make Physical Activity More Accessible for Latinos?

Community leaders and policymakers must work together to make sure all neighborhoods are safe for physical activity.

Some recommendations from the Safe Routes Partnership include:

  • Centering the lives, stories, and priorities of Latino, Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color
  • Investing in physical activity and physical education programs and strategies
  • Reimagining and recreating the built environment
  • Prioritizing play and physical activity

You can also support strategies to increase equitable access to physical activity in your own community.

Download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card!

Select your county name and get a customized Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. You will see how your area stacks up in housing, transit, poverty, health care, physical activity, and other health equity issues compared to the rest of your state and nation.

The Health Equity Report Card auto-generates local data with interactive maps and comparative gauges, which can help you visualize health inequities.

You can email your Health Equity Report Card and share it on social media. Also, use it to make the case for community change to boost health equity, where everyone has a fair, just opportunity to live their healthiest.

Get your Health Equity Report Card!

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of Latinos live within walking distance (<1 mile) of a park

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