According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, as well as two or more sessions of muscle strengthening activities.

However, a large share of Americans do not exercise at all outside of getting up and going to work, and that share has been growing. Today, 23.0% of the U.S. adult population lives a sedentary lifestyle. In the Mobile metro area, 29.6% of adults report no leisure-time physical activity, roughly similar to the inactivity rate for Alabama as a whole and higher than the national figure.

In addition to rising physical inactivity during off hours, Americans are getting less exercise at work. A recent study found that while 1 in 2 jobs in 1960 required moderate physical activity, just 1 in 5 jobs today do. Rising inactivity both at home and in the workplace has contributed to the country’s obesity epidemic. An estimated 27.0% of U.S. adults are obese, a substantial increase from 50 years ago. In Mobile, 36.1% of adults are obese, higher than the 33.6% statewide obesity rate and higher than the national figure.

Residents of poor, rural neighborhoods are often more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles than middle- or high-income Americans. One study found that residents of households earning less than $15,000 annually are three times more likely to be physically inactive than those of households earning incomes of more than $50,000 annually. An estimated 10.6% of all Mobile households earn less than $10,000 annually, a larger share than the 7.2% of American households with incomes below $10,000. The typical household in Mobile earns $42,699 a year, roughly $13,100 lower than the national median household income.

A fairly dense city, 80.7% of households in Mobile are in urban neighborhoods. While urbancities tend to have more opportunities for exercise than more rural metro areas, a fairly a small share of of Mobile residents have access to locations for physical activity. At 69.5% it is, a smaller share than the 84.0% of Americans with access to opportunities for exercise.

According the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of preventable death worldwide. WHO estimates that 3.2 million deaths worldwide are due to physical inactivity. Places with large shares of sedentary residents are likely to have a high incidence of premature death. For every 100,000 residents of Mobile, 74.9die before the age of 75, shorter than the premature death incidence nationwide of 78.5 deaths per 100,000 Americans.

Physical inactivity increases the risk of noncommunicable disease such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Nationwide, 9.3% of adults have diabetes, and 448 Americans out of every 100,000 have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. The incidence of such diseases is higher in Mobile, where 15.6% of adults have diabetes and 465 of every 100,000 residents has cancer.

Rank Geography Physical
inactivity rate
10 Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 33.3%
9 Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL 33.6%
8 Morristown, TN 33.6%
7 Hammond, LA 33.7%
6 Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA 34.0%
5 Jonesboro, AR 34.0%
4 Houma-Thibodaux, LA 34.1%
3 Beckley, WV 34.5%
2 Pine Bluff, AR 36.2%
1 Cleveland, TN 36.6%