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CDC: Americans living in the South least active
February 16th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

CDC: Americans living in the South least active

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds people living in parts of Appalachia and the South don't spend enough time exercising.

The study found that in most counties in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee, at least 29% of adults reported having no physical activity beyond their jobs.  In some areas the number was as high as 43%.  In contrast, the CDC researchers found that people living on the West Coast and residents of Colorado, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast were more likely to be active in their leisure time.  A  U.S. map on the CDC website shows how active residents are by region.

Previous research by the CDC has found Appalachia and the South to have the highest levels of diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, hopes this study will encourage people to take action.  "It helps lay the ground work so that citizens and policy makers will know where issues are and where problems are," she said.

So what can be done to change this trend?  Albright suggests a little exercise will go a long way.  "Moderate intensity activities such as dancing or brisk walking, for just 150 minutes a week, can significantly improve the health of people with diabetes or at high risk for the disease.


soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. iris delgado

    It is so true but no dieting eating daily lots of carbs and too much greasy burger s and not enough fruits and veggies and lack of exercise will cause health problems and early death iris

    February 16, 2011 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lulwut?!

      Actually, you aren't supposed to eat many fruits because of all the natural sugars in it. You can GAIN weight from eating too much fruit, however, like they say, "Everything in moderation, even moderation."

      February 17, 2011 at 06:09 | Report abuse |
    • skynyrt

      Actually, I would not rely on these answers. different people may consider the word "activity" differently, & then some may just plain lie. Too many variables.

      February 17, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • tommas

      Its "everything in moderation, EXCEPT moderation"

      February 17, 2011 at 12:23 | Report abuse |
    • LEB

      @Lulwut?! - It's really hard to each "too much" fruit, as long as it's fresh. And the amount of nutrients you get from fruit outweighs the amount of calories from natural sugars.

      February 17, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse |
  2. Teri

    To damn hot most of the time to do anything but sit in front of the air conditioner.

    February 16, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • skynyrt

      You are kidding, right? How much activity do you get with 6 ft snow drifts?

      February 17, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
    • tommas

      They have both heat and air conditioners in gyms

      February 17, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • CMS

      6 ft snow drifts? I wish. Shoveling is a great workout.

      February 17, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • CIndy

      Teri, I thought the same thing. When it's 90 degrees and at least 70% humidity, it's dangerous to get outside, let alone exercise. It's hot where we live for at least 6 months out of the year. People also don't understand we don't have gyms in the rural south. Combine that with how we've been taught to eat for generations... and you get a lot of obese people.

      I am very thankful for my treadmill and the internet for finding healthier recipes!

      February 17, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
    • Evan

      I must disagree completely, I lived in the South for the last 9 years, ran and biked all the time, swam at the beach, went out to the mountains camping and hiking! All year, summer too, even in the 100 degree high humidity! It takes motivation, some planning and living a healthy lifestyle, but it can easily be done. And on days its to dangerous, wait til the sun sets and take a short walk, its better than nothing!

      February 17, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
  3. Meredith

    I've been a member at three different gyms down south, and all of them had air conditioning, Teri.

    February 16, 2011 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • skynyrt

      I went to 3 gyms up north & they all had heat. Your point?

      February 17, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
  4. linda

    In the summertime... get up very early when it is cooler and do your exercise like walking... later in the evening it is too humid... and still hot.

    February 16, 2011 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. James

    News flash, the Pope is Catholic too. Does this really need an article? The 3-4 days out of the year it hits typical Southern summer temp/humidity where I live, I don't tend to leave the house or office much either. Sure you can go to the gym, but how many people do that? It's expensive and time consuming, I go for a walk almost every night and even that's hard to squeeze in between work and household chores.

    February 16, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JB

      I can assure you that the costs of treating and managing chronic diseases associated with an inactive lifestyle is a lot more costly than any gym.

      February 17, 2011 at 05:45 | Report abuse |
    • TMAC

      @JB Then maybe insurance plans should cover gym costs and child care for those to go to them.

      February 17, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
  6. are they scared?

    are they scared? is it fear related? i was attacked on the bike trail a couple of years ago (Minnesota) and I haven't been on my bike since. i used to run, but some guy kept throwing water bottles at me. i was afraid that he was going to take out my knees or something. the health club had a control freak guy that stopped me from ever wanting to set foot in a gym again. the combination of those three stopped me. they wrecked something that i truly loved. i bought a lemond trainer for my own house.

    February 16, 2011 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rico, suave

      take your meds

      February 17, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • Morning Sunshine Joy to the world

      Tell the control freak at the gym to take a hike. Or complain to management or find a different gym.
      Rico, that comment was uncalled for.

      February 18, 2011 at 02:10 | Report abuse |
  7. SouthernSomeone

    I exercise. I play lacrosse. But then again, I'm not an adult and don't have a job.

    February 16, 2011 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sue

    This is not a surprise, since people in the South-particularly Appalachian areas-are not as likely to be college educated compared to people living in the Northeast and West Coast, and there is a direct correlation between education and exercise activity. There is also a direct correlation between poverty and obesity.

    February 16, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JDT

      Thanks for stating the obvious...

      February 17, 2011 at 07:52 | Report abuse |
    • Teresa

      Finally! Now I know why I'm fat, its because I'm poor and stupid. Thanks for clearing that up Sue.

      February 17, 2011 at 09:29 | Report abuse |
    • Brian Holbrook

      As a person who lived most of his life in the South but has spent the last decade in the Pacific Northwest, I can say that I think the reasons behind the different activity levels are cultural. Here in the PacNW my friends are always planning physical activities, usually outdoors, and usually year-round. There seems to be a cultural need to be bicycling or skating or kayaking or hiking here in the PacNW. In the South no such culture of activity for exercise's sake exists. We have outdoor activities, to be sure, but they are geared toward fun and leisure, not health and fitness.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:51 | Report abuse |
    • polychrono

      wow, what an ignorant statement.

      February 17, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • TMAC

      I know many college scholars that are overweight, not just from the south. Maybe it has something to do with many places being more rural. You have to drive further to go to the gym or you get home much later b/c you go to the gym. When you have little ones in tow that's not the best for them.

      I'm from the south, I have a college education. I'm still overweight. I make the wrong food choices and get a little lazy from time to time. You should not judge people based on their education levels. Did Bill Gates graduate from college?

      I'd hate to live in such a narrow world ( b/c I wouldn't fit for more reasons than one, not only is my waist a little robust but my personality would blow your world to pieces).

      February 17, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
  9. Thea

    Sue there is also a direct correlation between living in an area that is hot, humid, and full of mosquitos half the year and not wanting to be outside.

    The Northeast and certainly the West Coast have longer periods of the year when being outside is pleasant – blizzards aside, I'll take a brisk walk on a cold day any time over 98 degrees with 98% humidity when the mosquito that hones in to bite you sticks to the sweat on your arm.

    Also the Northeast and West Coast tend to have larger urban areas, public transit systems and well developed park systems which make outdoor exercise a more integral part of every day life than in the more newly developed cities of much of the South where things tended to be designed to be reached via car.

    While there is a direct correlation between exercise and education – there are also more more practical and less easy stereotypical reasons for the lack of exercise in the South

    February 16, 2011 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      I agree with both of you. I think what is most important to point out is the article isn't blaming people in the South for not exercising. They are just merely pointing out that the study shows that people who live there are the least active. Coupled with similar data showing higher rates of obesity and diabetes, it points to an area that can be improved: finding ways for people to get physical exercise in a place where maybe it isn't quite as comfortable to go out running.

      Like one person above pointed out, which I think few people really recognize: a gym membership is FAR FAR FAR cheaper than treatment for diabetes and other long term health consequences associated with obesity. Both cheaper for the person themselves, even if you have insurance, and cheaper for the country as a whole. We would save so much money if lifestyle related illnesses (which the vast majority of Type 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis, and lung cancer etc...) were eliminated by people making smarter, healthier choices.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse |
    • rand

      Have you ever been to New Engand? It is 99% rural. I live in the suburbs and it is practically the woods.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse |
    • rand

      Reallly, a lot of it is related to eating habits. I am from the South and it is true that fried foods are the norm. Most of the time obesity is really about what you eat. You can exercise regularly, but if you sit down 3 times a day to eat fatty foods, well, you will be huge.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
  10. God is BS!

    That's how god & GOP BS can help you! Keep praying!

    February 16, 2011 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L

      why the hate? why not contribute something actually pertinent to the topic??

      February 17, 2011 at 07:10 | Report abuse |
  11. Lisa

    I don't know anything about exercise and Southerners, but in regards to the weather in the Northeast: anyone who says the weather is better in the Northeast has never been there during the winter-it is frigid cold for four months, and rainy and gray, and windy for another two months of the year. Blizzards are the least issue when it comes to inclement weather-it's just COLD up here! In addition, contrary to popular belief, much of the Northeast is rural-not urban, so public transportation is not accessible by many Northeasterners as some might believe.

    I have heard that there is some connections between obesity and poverty-ask Michelle Obama.

    February 17, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TMAC

      4 months of the year – So hot and humid that exercising isn't ideal (Heat Stroke anyone)
      3 – 4 months of the year – Not as cold as the Northeast but fairly close (Cold enough you don't wanna be out)

      February 17, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
  12. breeze6839

    Gee what a surprise. What do you expect out of the land of idiocy.

    February 17, 2011 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SouthernBelle

      Please, before spouting your idiocy, look in the mirror first and ask yourself if you are truly qualified to make such a thoughtless statement.

      February 17, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse |
  13. H

    of course, they're too busy cooking fried oreos to exercise

    February 17, 2011 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CK

      Well give me a Big fat greasy cheese burger with bacon between 2 krispy kream doughnuts over your healthy northern food anyday!

      February 17, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
  14. Ms. AL

    What leisure time?

    February 17, 2011 at 03:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sally B

    Ignorance is bliss I guess. Taking a swipe at the South in the name of exercise "research" ? I'm very sure stringent scientific gathering of information occurred in forming this conclusion. Hmmm... the South is filled with retired Northeners

    February 17, 2011 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. SouthernBelle

    It's insulting to hear the ignorant ramblings of even the educated. Southerners who makes excuses for themselves are pathetic, and I am a Southerner. Folks, just because it's hot outside does not mean you cannot workout in your own home. Buy a jump rope, get at treadmill. Better yet, buck up and go for a run outdoors. It won't kill you, but the lack of movement will.

    February 17, 2011 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christina

      Swimming is good hot-weather exercise, too.

      February 17, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse |
  17. Oremus

    Does this take into account that people retire to the south and not MN and CO?

    February 17, 2011 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Deester

    Im from the south, and some how, in spite of all the opinions of the Yankees up north, who obviously know everything there is to know, I have managed a college education and stayed in shape. All while maintaining a typical American household. It was actually rather easy, I wanted to be educated, so I went to school. I wanted to stay in shape, so I eat right and exercise. Its not rocket science.

    February 17, 2011 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. It's true!

    I have lived out wes, up north and now in TN. There are far more overweight people in TN then there were in any of the other northern and western states I lived in. Yes it does get hot and humid as hell down here, but part of excercising is breaking a sweat. I play racquetball, rollerblade and go to the gym multiple times weekly. People consider themselves "average" here when they are 30 lbs overweight. It's deplorable. People complaining about the heat are just lazy and making excuses.

    February 17, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. It's true!

    I have lived out west, up north and now in TN. There are far more overweight people in TN then there were in any of the other northern and western states I lived in. Yes it does get hot and humid as hell down here, but part of excercising is breaking a sweat. I play racquetball, rollerblade and go to the gym multiple times weekly. People consider themselves "average" here when they are 30 lbs overweight. It's deplorable. People complaining about the heat are just lazy and making excuses.

    February 17, 2011 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LH

    Typical sterotyping. There are overweight people everywhere.

    February 17, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      It's not stereotyping when there is evidence showing that there are more overweight people in one particular area, compared to another particular area. It's just stating the facts Now explaining causation for the weight may be more difficult (is it lack of exercise? diet? some genetic differents between people who live in the south and other places? etc...YOu can think of really crazy explanations) but just the statement that more people are overweight...that's just a statement of the facts.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:09 | Report abuse |
  22. rand

    HAHA, the weather excuse is hilarious! Too hot... BOOO HOOO. I live in Boston, where it is TOO COLD, yet many people make time for the gym. Quit eating so much fried catfish, sweet tea, etc. and get off your lazy you know whats.

    February 17, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. marc

    if you ever have been to the south it won't take long to figure how backward and 30yrs. behind the times they are down there. education is not a top priority but guns are. i had a guy from the south tell me one time that "you darn tootin my gun is more important than a good paying job is ". they show their ignorant redneck mentality everytime they go to the voting booth. george w bush won by a landslide down there not just once but twice!! sad

    February 17, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CK

      Just because we exercise our 2nd amendment rights does not mean we have to be unedumacated.. Have you ever tried to Protect your family with a book?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
    • SouthernBelle

      Politics and health are not the same topic. Stay on track here and lets see if you can follow one simple thing....you sound worse than the "rednecks" you refer to. I am educated, I am in shape, and I am a southerner. I have a gun, I am a female, and I am happy to have both the education and the gun. Get over it. Self defense is just as important as education. And the insult on our collective thinking shows your absolute lack of education. Perhaps you should get with the times yourself and stop spewing ignorant hate whenever you get the chance.

      February 17, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
  24. Slim

    Since it so hot there, you would think one would want to be in shape. Heavy people get hotter quicker.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. your mom

    stop wining get over it ......................................... wahwahwahwah ............... babys

    February 17, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Walk huh?

    We don't even have sidewalks in most of The South. How are we suppossed to walk anywhere?

    February 17, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rand

      People in the South still have legs.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
    • Morning Sunshine Joy to the world

      rand, way to understand the point, geez.

      If you have no sidewalk nor walking trails near your home, and it's too dangerous to bike in the street, find the nearest gym or yoga studio or buy a treadmill or exercise DVDs to do at home, perhaps.

      February 18, 2011 at 02:16 | Report abuse |
  27. More than One South

    I have lived long-term in the South – born in the Midwest. The first Southern town had no sidewalks, a couple of nice little parks, good schools, no restaurants except fast food and a really good grocery store. I was absolutely amazed at how THIN every one was! No they didn't ride bikes much like we did growing up, but they were healthy and outdoorsy – went up to the mtns. to hike fairly regularly. Then next small city – attached to a medium-sized city, had sidewalks everywhere. I loved it because it was so easy to get around. And I was all alone on those sidewalks most of the time. Everyone around was overweight. THey has better schools, access to everything modern – gyms, health food stores, education, nice homes, nice parks.... and they were mostly overweight. But in that next-door city, wow!, people walked everywhere. The city council provided a beautiful downtown park, people flock there, the sidewalks are full, health food all around (the same places mentioned above). So it was a choice – these two cities were surrounded by the same physical environment, but one was very active, one was not. Then I moved outside a small town. Nowhere safe to walk because everyone drove like a maniac on country roads. Everyone I saw was overweight! Schools were not good. But they had several nice parks, all with improved walking tracks. But, again, I was alone except for my dog, on those tracks. Now I live in a semi-major Southern city. Bike lanes, sidewalks in many areas, good transit, schools are mostly lacking, health food barely exists (2 stores in a city of nearly a quarter million?), people are mostly not too friendly unless you're friendly first, and overwhelming sense of defeat – and 90% are inactive, overweight and unhealthy, as I see it. It really is NOT what's available to you, it's what you avail yourself of given what you have. Poor does NOT equal inactive and/or overweight or unhealthy. The reverse may be true. Inactive people become less healthy, therefore are unable to work as hard – despite their desire to do so even – and thus find themselves among the poor. They then may not teach their children to be active and "poor" becomes a vicious life-cycle, when the real status is "inactive." It's NOT being Southern that makes people more inactive, it's life choices. I've seen Southerners as active and as inactive as they come. And as for the map attached to this article, it shows the county I live in currently as moderately active!!! Not from what I've experienced. I can't find people who are even willing to go hiking, biking or just walking outdoors. So, this is just a random survey, I suppose, and it seems they got ahold of the more active ones in the area. The point is, it's not about the heat or the sidewalks or the grocery store or the number of parks. It's what you are inside (pardoning serious health problems that have special considerations attached, of course.)

    February 17, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Al

      It's true that even with a good infrastructure you can't force people to get outside. Still, I have noticed that in areas where we've had access to a nice town center and fun things to do we definitely got out and about more. We walked places way more often when we lived in Baltimore than we do now in rural Virginia, where everything is far away and there are no sidewalks for the kids to use. We still get outside a lot because we have nice parks and such, but we can't walk anywhere. I'm sure there are several factors, but it can't help to have nothing around to do and no safe areas to walk around in. Having a population interested in and willing to support healthier food choices probably factors in as well. If nobody shops at the healthier restaurants they will eventually go out of business, while the fast food places thrive. I'm from Appalachia and it was the middle of nowhere. If you didn't feel like tramping through dense underbrush (which I often did) there was little to do outside. There were no parks to play in. It was the Creek or nothing.

      February 17, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse |
  28. Al

    I'll bet that if they did an overlay map of places with no sidewalks and far distances to everything it would coincide. Many places in Appalachia are far away from civilization, have zero sidewalks and dangerous curvy roads. If you want to do anything or go anywhere you have no choice but to drive. Places where there is walking access to community activities, where they provide safe sidewalks to navigate the town, like many towns in CA and on the East Coast, have less obesity.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Dunn

    Maybe part of it is simply that there are more factory and manual labor jobs in the south. I am from the midwest and a lot of factories from here have relocated to the south over the years. Uneducated folks with labor intensive or active jobs are less likely to exercise. They are tired and sore physically from a days work. We have family in Alabama and all of them have active jobs. From cutting timber to raising animals or building something in a factory. At the end of the day they mow the yard eat a fatty dinner and settle in for some tv time before hitting the hay early. I would say this culture is pretty common in the southern states listed in this article.

    February 17, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. deepSouth

    Funny, I've lived in the south most of my life and it's amazing how many northerners have relocated here. I live in a rural area and I have as many northern transplants as neighbors as "indigenous" natives.

    February 17, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Southern comfort

    Well, what do you expect when it's 90 degrees out with 100% humidity? Who wants to do *anything* in that kind of weather?

    February 17, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Okie Girl

    Yes, we have a lot of fat lazy people. I see people drive their cars across the street. Many of us do get plenty of exercise and eat right, we are just overshadowed by those who don't

    February 17, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Parent50

    The weather is not an excuse. Portland, OR and Seattle, WA have lower rates of obesity and the weather (at least here in Seattle) sucks. Here's your solution: TURN THE TV OFF. Play with your kids or pet or spouse or significant other. Walk outside, look at your house or apartment, and figure out a couple of things to do to spruce it up. Then do them. Go volunteer somewhere. Move your furniture around. Play on the monkey bars at the local school. It only takes a few minutes a day but you have to get off your duff.

    February 17, 2011 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. L

    In Alabama, it seems more socially acceptable to be overweight than NE or West Coast. Not as much staring or blame or shame. Maybe this data goes to prove that Southerners are just more laid back than the rest of the country.

    Note: the CDC map also points the finger at the Midwest. I think it has to do with population density & how often people feel shamed in public.

    February 17, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. living_in_the_dirty_south

    It's hot and humid most of the year – that's why we don't get enough exercise. Well, that and the fact that everything from chicken to oreos get fried down here. It's hard to walk off 3000 calories of yummy fried goodness when the heat index is 108.......in October.

    February 17, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sue

    It's incredibly sad-and frightening- to hear these anecdotal stories of "Well I live in the South and I exercise, so it's wrong that Southerners don't exercise or 'Well I'm educated and fat-so that must be wrong'. Of course SOME Southerners exercise! Of COURSE some educated people are overweight! When anyone is conducting research, they look at percentages, norms and trends, not individual stories of people who exercise.

    And it's also really, REALLY scary that hot weather is an excuse to be lazy! It's FREEZING up here in the North, but yet we are healthier. AND, summers in the Northeast are VERY humid also! And we have lots of mosquitoes as well.

    To anyone who doesn't believe there isn't a correlation between education and exercise, OR that the South isn't as educated as other regions of the country, here is the evidence to support my aforementioned statements:
    http://chronicle.com/article/Interactive-Map-Proportion-of/65009/
    Note how all states in the deep South (with the exception of the states that have a lot of transplanted Northerners!) have lower rates of college graduates than in the mid-West and Northeast.

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/what-class-rank-says-about-health/
    This proves that there is a direct correlation between education and being health conscious. And PLEASE-save the anecdotal stories that are exceptions to the rule. They really cannot refute facts.

    February 17, 2011 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. offended!

    Geez! You would think by the comments that all southerners are poor, ignorant, and lazy...but as i read above, and i agree upon, it's all about culture and accessibility! I was born and raised in the south and true southerners eat to celebrate everything! And whoever heard of a healthy bbq??? While exercise combats obesity, what one eats plays the biggest role in their overall health. And wherever a rural area may be, whether its in the northeast or down south, who's going to drive 20min to the gym after doing manual labor all day? There are many who do remain active (like my big bro who runs 5mi a day) but the fact is, that being overweight is socially acceptable outside urban areas thus leading folks to believe that its otherwise ok, despite health issues. Please folks, stop being ignorant and thinking that we are lazy and too stupid to realize obesity = bad health. Understand that we typically dont spend a beautiful afternoon hiking, we spend it grilling :o)

    March 4, 2011 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. tryecrot

    Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.

    August 28, 2011 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply

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