Erie Vital Signs

Health Behaviors and Disease Prevention: Physically Inactive

Recent Performance

This trend is negative or needs improvement.

Getting adequate regular physical activity continues to be a problem for adults in Erie County. In 2011 (the most recent data for this indicator), 28% of adults in Erie County reported being physically inactive—an increase from 2007 when only 24% of adults in Erie were physically inactive. This rate is higher than the national rate, the statewide average, and the benchmark average for the regions against which Erie is compared.

Those most likely to be physically inactive include those Erie County residents who are not high school graduates, who earn less than $25,000 a year, and who are 65 and older.

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the percentage of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey respondents who answered no in response to the survey question: During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?

Why It's Important

Physical activity is essential to overall health. Regular physical activity can help control weight gain, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, inactive adults have a higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.

A lower percentage of adults who are physically inactive is better, of course.

The Details

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) is a telephone based health survey of adults age 18 and above. Both landline and cell phone users are included. Initiated in 1984 by the CDC, it is now administered nationally, statewide, regionally, and locally. The survey focuses on health care access, health conditions, risk behaviors, and preventive health practices. Standardized questions allow comparison among various population groups. The 2011 Erie County Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) was administered by the Erie County Department of Health for all of Erie County. Moore Research Services, Inc. completed the telephone survey using the standard CDC questionnaire, tabulated results, and produced this statistical report. The Erie County Department of Health provided technical assistance during this process.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator has no subcategories. The raw data for Erie County do provide data for subcategories based on sex, age, education, income, and race.

Peer Areas

The BRFSS data are available for Erie, the state of Pennsylvania, and the United States. Data is also available for the following thirteen of the standard peer selected metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs): Akron OH, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ, Boulder CO, Cedar Rapids IA, Flint MI, Gainesville FL, Green Bay WI, Kalamazoo-Portage MI, Lansing-East Lansing MI, Laredo TX, Peoria IL, Roanoke VA, and Spartanburg SC.


Erie County completes a BRFSS every four to five years. The survey is administered every year at the state and national level.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, administered by the Erie County Department of Health following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Links to the data are given above under “All the Nitty-Gritty Details”.

Other Related Data

Additional Studies and Research

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