Physical Inactivity



Why do we measure physical inactivity?

Globally, about 25% of adults do not get adequate physical activity.(1) Nationally, this number is closer to 50%.(2) Physical activity is an important component to preventing or reducing the severity of diseases like cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, breast and colon cancer.(1,2) Physical activity is also important for brain health. Physical activity improves cognition – the ability to think and learn – regulate emotions, and reduces anxiety and depression.(3) Researchers estimate over 100,000 deaths could be prevented a year by increasing physical activity by 10 minutes.(4)

How do we measure physical inactivity?

This metric includes adults, aged 18 or older, who report getting no leisure-time physical activity in the past month.

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

Measuring physical inactivity can bring attention to groups who could benefit from improved neighborhood walkability, increased green space, community exercise programs, and other changes to their physical environment.(6)

The physical inactivity metric is restricted to adults aged 18 or older and does not provide information about children.

This metric only measures respondents who do not do get any physical activity, but it does not identify individuals who get some, but not enough, physical activity.

The metric is self-reported and depends on the accuracy of the person surveyed.


Physical inactivity is calculated by the following formula:

Physical Inactivity Formula

This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from one year modeled PLACES Project Data (formerly 500 Cities Project) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Years of Collection

Calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2021, 1 year modeled estimate.


  1. World Health Organization. Physical activity. Updated February, 2018. Accessed February 20, 2018.

  2. Chronic disease fact sheet: Physical inactivity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published September 8, 2022. Accessed November 10, 2022.

  3. Physical activity boosts brain health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.,and%20reduce%20anxiety%20or%20depression. Published May 21, 2021. Accessed November 10, 2022.

  4. Tookmanian E. DCEG News updates. National Cancer Institute. Published January 24, 2022. Accessed November 10, 2022.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults Need More Physical Activity. Updated September 20, 2016. Accessed February 10, 2018.

  6. Health risk behaviors measure definitions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published October 20, 2021. Accessed November 9, 2022.

Last updated: February 20, 2024