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Healthy hotspots: The most physically active counties in Hawaii

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November 8, 2023
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This story originally appeared on Northwell Health and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

Healthy hotspots: The most physically active counties in Hawaii

Regular physical activity is beneficial for both physical and mental health. But around 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. say they don't engage in any kind of physical exercise in a typical week, a 2021 report by Ipsos found.

Nearly one-third of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression disorder in 2023, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data. People treated for anxiety, depression, and psychological distress—and who exercise regularly—show fewer and less intense symptoms of those conditions than their fellow patients who don't exercise, according to a 2023 umbrella review of medical research. The study highlighted that the most significant benefits of physical activity accrue to otherwise healthy individuals, as well as those suffering from depression and HIV.

Many studies have also demonstrated that physical exercise provides sustained boosts to cognitive function. For example, a 2020 meta-analysis of 46 randomized controlled trials established that older adults participating in aerobic activities such as running, swimming, and cycling have stronger cognition abilities and working memory capacity than their less active peers. Overall, there's a consensus in the medical scientific community that physical activity is an essential factor in mitigating aging-related cognitive decline.

Northwell Health partnered with Stacker to analyze data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual PLACES report, released in 2023, to see which counties had the most physically active adults. The survey, administered in 2021, asked respondents if they had exercised for leisure in the past month. The data measures the share of adults who reported low or no physical activity.

The most active counties in Hawaii are listed below. Counties are ranked by the share of adults who reported any level of leisure physical activity, including running, golf, or gardening. In the event of a tie, the overall population was used.

To see how Hawaii compares to the rest of the country, the most physically active counties in the U.S. can be found here.

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How physical activity varies across the country

Income is a potent predictor of the time a person devotes to physical exercise. People with lower incomes can find it hard to exercise because safe public spaces may not be available, gym membership and workout equipment are expensive, and they may have less flexible work schedules.

A 2018 research paper found that among adolescents and young adults, people in families with higher incomes, as well as men and white people, were more likely than others to engage in physical activity.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation reported that, in 2021, households in Northeastern and Western states earned, on average, $7,000 to $15,000 more a year than households in the Midwest and South, respectively. People who live in those regions are more likely to report higher rates of physical activity.

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#5. Hawaii, Hawaii

- Total population: 202,906
- Share of adults reporting any physical activity: 78.6%
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#4. Honolulu, Hawaii

- Total population: 1,000,890
- Share of adults reporting any physical activity: 80.1%
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#3. Kauai, Hawaii

- Total population: 73,454
- Share of adults reporting any physical activity: 80.6%
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#2. Maui, Hawaii

- Total population: 164,221
- Share of adults reporting any physical activity: 82.0%
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#1. Kalawao, Hawaii

- Total population: 82
- Share of adults reporting any physical activity: 83.8%

This story features data reporting by Elena Cox, writing by Shakhzod Yuldoshboev, and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 49 states.

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