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Cindi Albright does pushups under water Wednesday at the Rogue Valley YMCA swimming pool in Medford. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, Medford was ranked as the third most active city in the nation. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

Making a Splash

If you're a couch potato, you'd better get up and get moving, because your neighbors apparently are already out there.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Medford has been ranked as the third most active city in the nation. The rankings actually reflect activity in the Medford metropolitan statistical area, which takes in all of Jackson County.

Medford joined a slew of Western cities — 12 of the top 15 — on the active category, while areas in southern states came in with the worst rankings.

Nationwide rankings for each area were compiled using census data from 2008, and data from random telephone surveys of more than 350,000 Americans each year.

The statistics revealed areas where inactivity was the highest, meaning places where the largest number of people chose not to exercise during their free time.

The survey included cities with populations of 40,000 and a larger metropolitan area of at least 100,000 to come up with a list of the most active locations.

Folks at the Southern Oregon Visitors Association and the Medford Visitors Convention Bureau were pleased, but not surprised, by the news.

"You have skiing, golfing, hiking and cycling," said Anne Jenkins, vice president of the Visitors Convention Bureau. "You realistically can do it all.

"Everything you want to do outdoorsy you can, and the climate is here to serve you."

A county official agreed, but said the survey should be taken with a grain of salt.

"We do want to be active," said Jackson County Public Health Services Manager Belle Shepherd.

Shepard, however, said that while the statistics are nice to hear, they might be skewed because the survey was based on self-reporting.

"When you ask Oregonians about their top 10 priorities, activity will probably be in there," Shepherd said. "Other states, this might not be true."

Oregon residents have a reputation for considering exercise and outdoor activity important, meaning they might be quick to answer that they are active, Shepherd said.

Despite that reservation, Shepard said the statistics were positive news for organizations working to encourage residents to make healthy choices.

Shepard said active lifestyles can be dependent on things like access to sidewalks and safe outdoor areas for recreation, as well as availability of healthy foods.

"As public health officials, we're always going to say there is room to improve,' Shepherd said.

Medford's ranking of 13.9 percent inactivity comes despite 2007 Department of Human Services statistics that showed 36 percent of the county's population as overweight, and 21 percent as obese.

Rates of inactivity varied across the country, from a low of 10.1 percent inactivity to a high of 43 percent, and clear trends were apparent for different regions.

The South and Appalachian mountain region had fairly high levels of inactivity, while most of the West and a small chunk of the East Coast fared the best.

Four of the five least active counties in the country were located in Kentucky. States on the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountain area showed the lowest rates of laziness. Colorado earned top marks as a state, with 60 out of 64 counties showing less than 21 percent inactivity.

The top five most active cities were Boulder, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M., Medford, Santa Cruz, Calif., and Boise, Idaho.

Teresa Ristow is a reporting intern with the Mail Tribune.

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