Florida Ranks in the Middle of New Healthiest States Index Comparing the States

Florida is the 21st healthiest state in the nation according to a new study that ranks all the states and the District of Columbia against 13 contributing factors.

The Healthiest States Index, published by fitness advice platform BarBend, uses the latest available data from the US Census and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published between 2015 and 2022, for residents of the US aged 18 and over. It ranks 51 U.S. jurisdictions based on three main pillars: lifestyle behavior, weighing 55 percent of the ranking; health status (25 percent); and available fitness infrastructure (20 percent).

Almost half–49.5 percent–of the adult population in Florida is aerobically active for the recommended minimum of 150 minutes per week. As for those who work out to strengthen their muscles at least twice a week, 30 percent of adults living in Florida do so.

To put this in context, on average, 50.3 percent of all adult US residents meet their minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or an equivalent combination. Meanwhile, 30.5 percent of them work out to build muscle at least twice a week.

Only 14 percent of adults in Florida eat the recommended amount of fruit every day, compared to 12.2 percent across the country. As for vegetables, while only 9.3 percent of all US residents aged 18 and over-consume their daily recommended intake, 10.3 percent in Florida do so.

More than a quarter–28.4 percent–of adults in Florida are obese. In fact, 31.9 percent of the adult population in the US is considered obese, measured in terms of a Body Mass Index (BMI) factor of 30 or more. Only 14.5 percent of adults in Florida smoke, compared to the US average of 16.6 percent, and 17.5 percent of Florida residents binge drink, while the national median stands at 17.4 percent.

When it comes to chronic diseases, such as depression, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis, to name a few, Florida counts 61,505 occurrences in total, which may overlap in some adults. CDC data from March 2021 indicates that 65.07 percent of Florida residents have an excellent or a very good health status, while 4.06 percent are classed as being in a poor health state. For comparison, the national average for those with an excellent or a very good health status is 63.68 percent, whereas those with a poor health status average to 2.69 percent across all states.

The fitness infrastructure in Florida is made up of 2,641 fitness and recreational sports centers, meaning that there are 15.11 fitness establishments per 100,000 adults. The national mean average stands at 11.89, with only nine states falling below this. There are also 201.26 fitness employees for every 100,000 adults in Florida, compared to 306.57 nationwide, reflecting the demand for fitness services in this state.

Researchers at BarBend also looked at how many adults have at least one park nearby, for those preferring a more nature-immersed workout. The study found that 39.1 percent of adults in Florida can get to a park within 0.5 miles, compared to other states, where the average stands at 46.4 percent.

A spokesperson for BarBend commented on the findings.

“Overall, low fruit and vegetable intake is a problem for all states, which indicates that there is room for improvement policy-wise at the national level. Florida came in at number 21 largely as a result of its residents’ habits,” the spokesperson said. “Some states have ideal fitness infrastructures, which could have been influenced by the demand for such services there, while others simply quit smoking and kept moderately active and that was enough to propel them among the healthiest states in the country.

“In places where the natural infrastructure is in place for as little as a walk in the nearby park every week, adopting a healthier lifestyle can become much easier,” the spokesperson added. “It is worth mentioning that social and economic factors play an important part in how healthy individuals are, but this research demonstrates that there are considerable differences in the fitness infrastructure and behaviors across the U.S.”

The District of Columbia is the healthiest jurisdiction. It scored top points for all fitness infrastructure indicators, which include fitness employees and establishments per 100,000 adults and available parks within 0.5 miles. DC residents also ranked first in terms of eating their daily recommended amount of fruit, but not so much when it comes to vegetables. Utah placed second and New Jersey ranked third.

Adults in Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia are the unhealthiest residents. They consume some of the lowest quantities of fruits and vegetables, are among the heaviest smokers in the country and only one in four of them work out twice a week. Interestingly, heavy drinking is not an issue in these three states, but chronic diseases are, where they rank among the country’s top 10 worst states on record.

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