Between high-end gyms outfitted with gleaming state-of-the art equipment, an array of fitness classes and no shortage of pickup sports leagues and bicycling clubs, it may seem that Americans have an abundance of exercise options.
But the same opportunities to lift, box, run, play ball and stretch – at least safely, conveniently and affordably – aren’t necessarily available for people who live in low-income urban and rural areas. Insufficient exercise is a key reason many people in these areas are overweight or obese, both of which increase the risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Overall, the U.S. is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and lack of exercise is a key reason many people who live in low-income neighborhoods suffer weight-related problems. In the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, government guidelines from the Department of Education (which provides programs for people from disadvantaged backgrounds), the government defines low income as individuals with an annual income of $18,090 up to $61,980 for a family of eight. Low-income levels are set higher in Alaska and Hawaii, though, because the states have generally higher median household incomes compared to the lower 48.
Regardless of income, adults should get at least two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise and engage in muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week, according to the government. But research suggests that lack of financial resources is tied to lower rates of physical activity, which in turn is linked to obesity and associated diseases. For example, while only 20 percent of Americans satisfy the exercise guidelines, 27 percent of those who did were college graduates, and the lowest rate of 12 percent was among people who had not received a high school diploma. Higher education levels are associated with greater earning power.