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Nutrition and Physical Activity

Alabama’s #4 Health Indicator

Alabama identified nutrition and physical activity (NPA) as the fourth highest current health indicator. Most Americans are sedentary and may engage in limited physical activities. The American Heart Association® (AHA) recommends about 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, while the average American is either in a sitting or lying position for about 18 hours a day (American Heart Association Recommendations).

NPA is combined in this report since they influence one another. Insufficient physical activity and poor nutrition can result in weight gain and chronic health conditions (CDC Obesity). The Body Mass Index (BMI) is one way to calculate body fat by using weight divided by height, although other calculations are more accurate. A BMI between 25.0-29.9 kg/m2 is categorized as overweight, 30.0-34.9 kg/m2 is categorized as obese, and over 35 kg/m2 is labeled morbidly obese (CDC Body Mass Index). In 2019, over one-third of Alabamians were considered at least obese (CDC Obesity). Obesity is a risk factor for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, mental illness, and osteoarthritis.

Disproportionately Affected Populations

Alabama is a very rural state, and many residents live in food deserts, i.e., places with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) defines food insecurity as a “lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited availability of nutritionally adequate foods” (USDA Food and Nutrition Service) In Alabama, 16.1 percent overall and 20.8 percent of children struggled with food insecurity in 2019 (Feeding America Food Insecurity).

Geographic Variation

Alabama has a state park system and green walkways in many urban centers. ADPH partnered with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to increase the number of walkable communities, which includes more sidewalks and slower speed limits to increase neighborhood mobility.

Alabama Nutrition and Physical Activity Highlights

The data presented for this information comes from BRFSS, which includes self-reported measures. Data are also retrieved from U.S. Census Bureau, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and community partners: 

  • In 2019, Over one-third (36.1 percent) of Alabama adults are obese.
  • Regular exercise and physical activity reduce the risk for many chronic diseases.

Health Indicators

The following indicators have been selected for use in developing a benchmark or starting point for measuring the current state of and monitoring future changes regarding nutrition and physical activity in the population of Alabama:


Page last updated: March 2, 2022