The 5 Worst States for Obesity and the 5 Best
The State of Obesity report ranks each state based on its obesity rate. Where did your state fall on the list?
The percentage of obese adults is now upwards of 35 percent in seven states, according to new research. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, experts at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked each state based on its obesity rate. It found that despite policy changes that have aimed to reduce obesity over the last several years, the percentage of obese adults has remained stable in most states, and actually increased in six. Starting with the worst, here’s a list of the five best and five worst states for obesity in the U.S. according to the latest State of Obesity report.
WORST #5: Alabama
About 36.3 percent of adults in Alabama reported being obese, up from 22 percent in 2000 and 11.2 percent in 1990.
On top of ranking the states based on obesity rates, the authors of the State of Obesity report also discussed policy actions that each state is taking to prevent and reduce obesity. They found that Alabama is one of 17 states that doesn’t have a complete streets policy, which would consider safe and convenient walking and biking options when planning transportation.
Up next: Despite having the fourth highest obesity rate, this state did well when it came to other, obesity-related issues.
WORST #4: Iowa
By a hair, Iowa beat Alabama for the fourth spot on this list with an obesity rate of 36.4 percent. Interestingly, the state did pretty well when it came to obesity-related health issues. According to the State of Obesity report, Iowa ranked 35th among the states for its adult diabetes rate (9.6 percent) and 29th for its adult hypertension rate (31.5 percent). However, it was one of just six states where the obesity rate actually increased between 2016 and 2017.
Up next: High school and middle school students in this state are not required to participate in physical education.
WORST #3: Oklahoma
Oklahoma took third place with an obesity rate of 36.5 percent, up from 20.1 in 2000 and 10.3 in 1990. It’s one of only eight states that doesn’t require high school students to participate in physical education, and one of just 14 states that doesn’t require PE for middle schoolers. This might explain, in part, why the Sooner state has the 11th highest obesity rate among youth ages 10 to 17. And, like Iowa, Oklahoma was one of just six states where the percentage of obese adults increased between 2016 and 2017.
Up next: The state with the second highest obesity rate in the country.
WORST #2: Mississippi
Mississippi had the second highest obesity rate in the country at 37.3 percent. That’s up 13.6 percent from 2000 and 22 percent from 1990. The State of Obesity report authors also found that it ranked second among the states for its adult obesity rate (14.2 percent) and fourth for its adult hypertension rate (40.8 percent). The Magnolia State also had the third highest percentage of 10-to-17-year-olds with obesity, at 37 percent. Read on to find out which state claimed the top spot on our list.
Up next: The state with the highest obesity rate in the nation.
WORST #1: West Virginia
About 38.1 percent of West Virginia adults are obese, making it the state with the highest obesity rate in the nation. (Back in 2000, 23.9 percent of adults in the state were obese, and only 13.7 percent had a BMI over 30 in 1990.) It also has the highest adult diabetes rate (15.2 percent) and the highest adult hypertension rate (43.5 percent) in the country. Read on for the six states with the lowest obesity rates!
Up next: Our list of states with the lowest obesity rates in the nation.
BEST #5: Utah (Tie)
Utah tied with another state for the fifth spot on our list of the states with the lowest obesity rates. About 25.3 percent of adults there are obese, up from 17.3 percent in 2000 and nine percent in 1990. Though it didn’t claim first place for the lowest adult obesity rate, it did have the lowest percentage of youth aged 10 to 17 with obesity (19.2 percent). It also has the lowest rate of adults with diabetes (7.1 percent) and the smallest percentage of adults with hypertension (24.5 percent).
Up next: This state tied with Utah for fifth place.
BEST #5: Montana (Tie)
About 25.3 percent of adults in Montana are obese, putting the state in a tie for fifth place with Utah. The Treasure State is one of just 22 states that require licensed early childhood education programs to allow or encourage onsite breastfeeding, and one of only 14 states that set minimum time amounts for middle school students to participate in physical education.
Up next: This state prioritizes safe routes for students who walk or bike to school.
BEST #4: California
The Golden State slid into our top five roundup, with 25.1 percent of adults reporting being obese. It’s one of just six states that set minimum time requirements for high school students to participate in PE, and one of only 14 states to do the same for middle schoolers. It’s also among the 16 states that have Safe Routes to School programs, which promote walking and biking to and from school by “improving sidewalks, bike paths and street crossings; reducing speeds in schools zones and neighborhoods; addressing distracted driving; and prioritizing pedestrian and bike safety,” the State of Obesity authors report.
Up next: High school students in this state aren't getting out of taking PE.
BEST #3: Hawaii
The Aloha State has the third lowest adult obesity rate in the nation (23.8 percent); unfortunately, Hawaii has the 20th highest percentage of adults with diabetes (10.9 percent). But on a positive note, like California, it’s one of only six states where high school students are required to participate in physical education for a minimum amount of time.
Up next: Though it's not a state, this district beat most of the nation when it came to obesity rates.
BEST #2: District of Columbia
While it isn’t a state, Washington, D.C.’s obesity rate definitely warrants mention, beating 49 states out at 23 percent. It also has the 4th lowest adult diabetes rate (7.8 percent) and the 3rd lowest rate of adults with hypertension (26.7 percent). Washington, D.C. joins the only four states that require early childhood education programs to have a private space available for mothers to breastfeed.
Up next: The state with the lowest obesity rate in the nation.
BEST #1: Colorado
Colorado has fewer obese adults than any other state (or U.S. capital), with only 22.6 percent of adults reporting being obese. It also had the third lowest percentage of adults with diabetes (7.4 percent) and the second lowest adult hypertension rate (25.9 percent). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maintaining a healthy lifestyle hugely contributes to obesity prevention. They recommend that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, which can include anything that gets your heart pumping.
Knowing about caloric balance, or the number of calories you intake compared to the number of calories your body burns in a day, can also help you achieve weight loss. You can start tracking your calorie intake with a food diary, or you can use LIVESTRONG.COM’s MyPlate Calorie Tracker.
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- CDC: Glossary of Terms
- UPI: CDC: At least 20 percent of every U.S. state's population is obese
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study in 2013.
- United Health Foundation: America's Heath Rankings Annual Report
- The State of Obesity: Adult Obesity in the United States
- Fox News Health: The 10 healthiest and least healthy states in the US
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- CDC: Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity: Data, Trends and Maps
- CDC: Strategies to Prevent Obesity
- CDC: Finding a Balance
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