Better-off Kentuckians exercise more; foundation CEO says policymakers can help increase access to exercise venues

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Health status and income matter when it comes to being physically active. Kentucky adults who reporting good health and higher incomes also saying they are more physically active than those reporting fair or poor health or lower incomes, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

“One of the things policy makers and communities can do is make it easier for residents to get exercise in their own neighborhoods,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, a poll sponsor, said in the news release. “The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says all adults should avoid inactivity, and those who participate in any amount of physical activity will gain at least some health benefits.”

The poll, conducted Sept. 11 through Oct. 19, found that eight in 10 Kentucky adults said they were physically active, with 30 percent of this group reporting they were “very physically active” and 49 percent of them reporting they were “somewhat physically active.”

However, these responses varied by health status and income.

Almost nine out of 10 Kentucky adults who reported excellent, very good or good health said they were very or somewhat physically active, compared to only 54 percent of those reporting fair or poor health. And those with higher incomes reported more activity than those with lower incomes, 84 percent and 76 percent respectively.

The survey also asked respondents if their neighborhood is a good place to walk, jog or bike. It found that 76 percent said their neighborhoods were excellent, very good or good for these activities, while 24 percent said their neighborhoods were only fair or poor.

But when asked if they had sidewalks and road shoulders to walk on, the results weren’t as positive. Half said their neighborhoods rated excellent, very good or good for this measure and 44 percent said their neighborhoods rated fair or poor.

The survey also asked about safety for exercise; 46 percent said their neighborhoods were safe, 35 percent said they were somewhat safe and 19 percent said their neighborhood was somewhat unsafe or not safe at all for exercise.

Neighborhood exercise conditions also varied by region. Excellent, very good or good neighborhoods for physical activity were reported by 84 percent from Louisville; 81 percent from Lexington; 78 percent from Western Kentucky; 77 percent from Northern Kentucky; and 61 percent from Eastern Kentucky.

Two-thirds of Kentucky adults said increasing their level of exercise would improve their overall health. One-fourth said it would make no difference and 7 percent said it could make their health worse. This attitude varied with education. Those with more education were more likely to say that increased activity would improve their health, compared to those with less education who were more likely to say it would make no difference.

“The foundation is funding demonstration projects to improve neighborhood conditions, such as the health park in Paducah that includes a walking trail, playground and community garden. Kids who learn good physical activity habits will grow up to be healthier adults,” Chandler said.

The poll was funded by the foundation and Cincinnati-based Interact for Health. It surveyed a random sample of 1,580 Kentucky adults via landlines and cell phones, and has an error margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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