One of the sales pitches churches and temples make is that belonging to a religious organization is a healthy choice, getting people out of their homes and in contact with other human beings who can support them in times of need. Some religious organizations go further, and claim that they can keep their members more healthy by assembling special prayer teams that target health problems.
Recent data show, however, that in one measure strongly correlated with population health, religious affiliation doesn’t seem to be beneficial for people’s health. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered information about the amount of exercise Americans had engaged in during the previous month. Another source, the American Religious Identification Survey, measured Americans’ religious affiliations. When combined, these two surveys can show if there is a relationship between religious identification and exercise.
The data show a correlation coefficient of about .6, meaning that among the states, there’s actually a weak negative correlation between the rate of religious affiliation and the amount of exercise. States with higher populations of people who are not affiliated with any religion have a slight tendency to have higher rates of exercise.
This doesn’t prove that lack of religion is causing people to engage in more healthy levels of exercise. It does argue against the idea, however, that high rates of affiliation with religious organizations brings a population into greater physical fitness.