Are McAllen, San Antonio and El Paso really better at exercising than Austin?

A runner uses the Boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake to exercise at dawn.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Apparently, we’re not as fit as we think here in Austin, despite those crowded trails and bustling gyms.

The Austin-Round Rock area comes in a disappointing 70th out of 189 U.S. communities in the “Rates of Regular Exercise” report, part of the Gallup-Sharecare State of American Well-Being series.

The study focuses on a single question: “In the last seven days, on how many days did you exercise for 30 or more minutes?” Those who reported exercising for 30 minutes or more, on three or more days in the previous week, were categorized as exercising “regularly.”

In the Austin area, 56.7 percent of those surveyed were categorized as regular exercisers. That’s slightly above the national average of 53.4 percent, the highest since Gallup and Sharecare began measuring in 2008.

That means more than half of respondents claimed they exercised for 30 minutes or more at least three days a week. Which seems a little optimistic, come to think of it.

Even more baffling, the Austin area finished behind three Texas communities usually more associated with high obesity rates than fitness – El Paso, 39th, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, 40th, and San Antonio-New Braunfels, 65th. We did beat Dallas-Fort Worth, 77th, Corpus Christi, 93rd, Lubbuck, 126th, and Beaumont-Port Arthur, 150th.

Alissa Podber lifts weights at Hyde Park Gym Monday September 12, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Studies are odd. Depending on the focus, they show different results.

A study released earlier this year by WalletHub, which used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listed the McAllen-Edinburg area as the fourth fattest city in the country (it also had the highest percentage of obese adults in the country.) San Antonio-New Braunfels came in 14th; El Paso was 22nd. Austin was 71st on that list.

What gives?

Maybe respondents aren’t answering truthfully. The Gallup-Sharecare study is based on more than 350,000 telephone interviews.

The Gallup-Sharecare study also looked at exercise rates by gender, age, income and race/ethnicity. It found that more males than females are regular exercisers, rates of regular exercisers fall as people age, Hispanics have higher rates of regular exercisers than Asians, whites or blacks, and rates of regular exercisers increase as income rises.

The city with the most regular exercisers? Boulder, Colorado. The city with the fewest? Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, North Carolina with 41.8 percent.

To see the full report, go here.

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