PHILADELPHIA – You know that woman in your office who says she runs five miles every morning and lifts weights three times a week?
Turns out she might be exaggerating.
In fact, Philadelphians don’t get much exercise compared to residents of other major US cities, according to an analysis of 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published earlier this month by ChamberOfCommerce.org. The organization writes reviews on small business marketing and financing and is not affiliated with the United States Chamber of Commerce.
The researchers calculated the share of adults who reported to the CDC how often they participated in recreational physical activities such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise. Such efforts help prevent obesity, diabetes and depression.
In Philadelphia, 68% of adults said they were physically active. That places them 40th on a list of 49 cities with 350,000 or more residents. We cheesesteak idolaters are sandwiched (hoagie-ed?) between Wichita, Kansas (39th at 70.1%) and Milwaukee (41st at 69.3%).
At No. 1, Seattle residents — despite the clouds and rain — are exercising the most at a rate of 84.7%. Cleveland residents are last at a 61.7 percent exercise rate. The list only goes to 49 because those are the cities for which complete data was available.
A few people were offended by the conclusion that Philadelphia residents don’t exercise enough.
“God, they always call us the saddest town for one thing or another,” said Todd Scott, 57, owner of Platoon Fitness, a downtown gym. “But if people weren’t working, how could someone like me be in business? You see people running all the time. (A lot of outdoor jogging resumed across America when gyms closed during the worst of the pandemic, experts say.)
The report is “complete bs” according to Mark Berman, a 51-year-old South Philadelphia graphic designer and runner. He said there’s a little-seen kinetic community of runners clogging the streets early in the morning, while the weak and flabby among us hit the snooze button, contemplating breakfasts of syrup-soaked pancakes.
“Over the years there has been an exponential increase in the number of runners,” Berman said, citing the growing popularity of running clubs. “This study – I just don’t buy it.”
Still, for some, the news that our neighbors don’t like sit-ups as much as those who reside in the Emerald City came as little of a shock.
“You know, I’ve noticed other sports team mascots are in better shape than ours,” said bar owner William Reed, 54, of Fishtown. “I think the reason we have Gritty is our acceptance of a look that looks like you.” Certainly, the genial roundness of the Phillie Phanatic suggests, he said, that “most of us can recognize something about ourselves in Gritty and the Phanatic”.
Perry Coco doesn’t like mascots very much, but he thinks the report grounded him.
“I don’t work out anymore,” said Coco, 64, of South Philadelphia, who is retired from the construction industry. “As you got older, it became more difficult. You have pain: knees, back — I have everything.
“Now my sons-in-law, they work a full day and then go to the gym for three hours. I wish I had that drive. I say to them, ‘Why not just take a shower after work and lay down?’ »
Coco and others noted that Philadelphia is known as a great bike-friendly borough, but, according to WalletHub, it’s not among the top 10 bike-friendly cities.
Overall, Terri Lipman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, said ChamberOfCommerce.org’s analysis “isn’t much of a surprise.”
In an assessment of 250 local elementary school students by Penn Nursing, Lipman learned that many children simply don’t have safe play spaces. She added: “Children are spending too much time staring at screens and not enough time taking gym and sports lessons at school.”
Noting that Philadelphia is the poorest of America’s largest cities, Lipman said people living in poverty face “multiple pressing issues.” Physical activity requires attention to self-care, which is difficult when it competes with other survival responsibilities that a person has, she said.
According to ChamberOfCommerce.org analysis, high-income people are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than their low-income counterparts.
It’s important to note that people don’t need to run to be fit, said Sara Kovacs, a Temple University education professor specializing in exercise and sports science. “Walking briskly for five to 10 minutes and increasing it steadily has benefits,” she said.
But it’s not always easy either, Kovacs acknowledged.
Tianna Gaines-Turner, 43, who works for a nonprofit that helps people with housing and other issues, said her low-income neighborhood in the northeast was not conducive to outdoor exercise, especially for her children.
“To be honest, the parks around here have been redone and some are really nice. But they are very dangerous,” she said. “We have shootings in the middle of the day. I want my kids to play on swings, but I don’t want them dodging the balls.
For years, it’s been clear to Selena Earley that Philadelphians aren’t getting enough exercise.
So for 18 years, she and her husband, David, 60, have been teaching Zumba, as well as line dancing and hip-hop to children and adults in West Philadelphia at Inthedance, LLC. The group is part of Dance for Health, a collaboration with the Penn School of Nursing to improve physical activity.
Sometimes, she says, the kids are the toughest challenge. “I think they would rather have cell phones in front of them, but we make the beats fast and the music loud,” said Earley, 57. “They are excited and love to learn.”
It’s best for young people to start exercising early, experts say.
Otherwise, as Dom Episcopo, a 55-year-old commercial photographer in Fishtown puts it – and as much as Philadelphia obviously agrees – “it will always be hard to find the motivation to exercise, and easy to find reasons to avoid it – crude but true.”