People transplanted from here to Colorado and Vermont often remark that denizens of those places seem to be more outdoorsy.
Some fascinating figures released last week from the University of Wisconsin give substance to those impressions.
Among the many things measured, the county-by-county report notes that about 26 percent of adults in Chautauqua County are not physically active.
Residents of every county in the entire state of Vermont beat that figure, and so do people in most of the counties in Colorado.
The annual assessment by the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute ranks the relative health of county populations according to four broad topics: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Under "health behavior," the assessment takes into account things like smoking, obesity, excessive drinking and, yes, physical activity. By all of the measures, people in 49 of New York state's 62 counties are healthier than are residents in Chautauqua County. Cattaraugus County is just behind us on that scale.
Certainly there are direct as well as subtle correlations to be made in assessing the meaning of all of the figures. And, yes, physical activity is just one of the many behaviors that affect others factors - but it is such an easily attainable and inexpensive way to bolster one's health.
It simply seems remarkable that, for whatever reason, there are entire states that have stronger cultures centered on leisure activities in the out of doors.
Both Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties have plenty of places and plenty of ways to enjoy physical activities without having to spend much money, if any at all. There are plenty of fine town, village, city and county parks that can be used for free, as well as vast areas of state lands and Rails to Trails for hiking. There is no question that we lag behind other areas in having paved bicycling and walking paths, but that is not as big a barrier to being physically active.
Nor do we need government spending more money on programs to get people up off the couch.
It seems to us that in large measure, whether you are physically active has to do with your family's culture. Do your children see you faithfully going for a brisk walk after dinner every evening? Do you turn off the TV, put computers into sleep mode and make your children go with you? Do you regularly take the little ones to playgrounds?
What? You don't have time for those things?
Well, short of moving to Vermont where, apparently, days are longer - you and the children will become more outdoorsy if you enshrine, as an inviolate family tradition, that brisk walk around the block or up the road every evening after dinner.