Back in December, when a study found that Louisiana was the happiest state in America, it wasn’t much of a surprise to most of us who live here. Bear that study in mind when we now tell you that Businessweek.com says we’re also the laziest of the 50 states.
It’s apparently our humid climate and our love of food, among other things. We also watch more TV than most folks, sleep a little more, socialize a good bit more and spend more time “relaxing” than the national average by a long shot. Louisianians also spend less time working than any other state in the country – just two hours, 41 minutes per day, or just under 19 hours per week. The national average is three hours and 23 minutes on the job per day.
Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas are the three laziest states in the union, according to the survey.
The survey says our state’s obesity rate is 31.2 percent, which puts us in the top five on the country’s Fat-O-Meter. Our food is apparently to blame for that, though some 30 percent of our people get little or no exercise. (Get a dog, and walk him three or four times a day. Ain’t hard.) Among the 70 percent are some of the world’s best athletes, as Louisiana is a hotbed for talent in many of our most popular national sports.
Businessweek.com says our “torpid” lifestyle contributes to our spending $1.2 billion per year on obesity-related health problems. The article also goes into the fact that in small-town Louisiana there are apparently no places to exercise like in the big city (huh?) – outside of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, for example, there aren’t enough bike paths or public parks. No opportunities to be outdoors out in the country, you see.
The challenges to getting people up and moving are complex. Outside the big cities is a dearth of public transportation, bike paths, and sidewalks, says Berry Trascher, Louisiana advocacy director of the American Heart Assn., “and there are so many poor and underserved and undereducated people who don’t understand how to eat healthy.” On top of that, she says, “everything is centered around food in Louisiana.” Trascher, a lobbyist, and others hope to change this.
Adding physical activity positively affects physical health, as well as mental health, emotional well-being, and social functioning, according to a study of sedentary women by Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
One outlier is Mark Martin, a Baton Rouge resident, who has built a lifestyle around his bicycle. Despite the heat and people’s odd reactions, he says, he has not owned a car for about 20 years. “Originally it was economics: I had just gotten out of grad school and couldn’t afford [a car],” says the 56-year-old photo archivist at Louisiana State University. “I started riding more and realized how much fun it is, and the health benefits are certainly there.”
Martin is working to make the city more accessible to bikers and walkers through a nonprofit, Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets, which he started in 2006. The group organizes rides and advocates policies that ensure the right of way for nonmotorists. “People can’t use things that aren’t there,” he says. “You can’t walk and bike if there is no built environment for that.”
Walking isn’t difficult to do when the government doesn’t provide areas for it, actually. Biking might be, but walking sure isn’t. Requires no equipment at all. When it’s 90 degrees outside, though, with 90 percent humidity, folks aren’t going to want to go walking regardless of how many public parks the politicians lay on us.
So we’re fat, and we’re lazy, and we like it that way. Sounds like folks ought to leave us alone, no?