Index Identifies Health, Fitness Levels in Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Live in a major U.S. city? So how active and healthy is the population in your metropolitan area?

    A new report chronicling the American College of Sports Medicine’s American Fitness Index has just been released which analyses the health and fitness status of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The fitness index started six years ago as a way to evaluate the health and fitness levels of America’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. The program provides reliable measures of health and community fitness to community leaders so they can understand the various influences on citizens’ physical activity and eating choices. Thus the leaders can develop strategies to encourage physical activity and mobilize the community to take part in best practices. The program also serves as a resource on research, education and application of sports medicine and exercise to the community. It also tries to help communities partner with existing organizations and other partners to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle efforts.

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    The cities rankings are as follows:  1. Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington, MN-WI; 2. Washington, D.C./Arlington/Alexandria VA-MD-WV area; 3. Portland/Vancouver/Hillsboro, OR-WA; 4. San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, CA; 5. Denver/Aurora/Broomfield, CO; 6. Boston/Cambridge/Quincy, MA-NH; 7. Sacramento/Arden/Arcade/Roseville, CA; 8. Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, WA; 9. Harford/West Hartford; East Harford, CT; 10. San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, CA; 11. Austin/Round Rock/San Marcos, TX; 12. Salt Lake City, UT; 13. Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN; 14. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA; 15. Raleigh-Cary, NC; 16. Pittsburg, PA; 17. Baltimore-Towson, MD; 18. Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Newport News, VA-NC; 19. Cleveland/Elyria/Mentor, OH; 20. Richmond, VA; 21. Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Marietta, GA; 22. Providence/New Bedford/Fall River, RI-MA; 23. Buffalo/Niagara Falls, NY; 23. New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island, NY-NJ-PA; 25. Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD; 26. Milwaukee/Waukesha/West Allis, WI; 27. Chicago/Naperville/Joliet, IL-IN-WI; 28. Kansas City, MO-KS; 29. Low Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana, CA; 30. Columbus, OH; 31. Saint Louis, MO-IL; 32. Nashville/Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin, TN; 33. Phoenix/Mesa/Glendale, AZ; 34. Orlando/Kissimmee/Sanford, FL; 35. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA; 36. Charlotte /Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC; 37. Jacksonville, FL; 38. New Orleans/Metairie/Kenner, LA; 39. Law Vegas/Paradise, NV; 40. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, FL; 41. Birmingham/Hoover, AL; 42. Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach, FL; 43. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, TX; 44. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, TX; 45. Indianapolis/Carmel, IN; 46. Memphis, TN-MS-AR; 47. Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN: 48. San Antonio/New Braunfels, TX; 49. Detroit/Warren/Livonia, MI; and 50. Oklahoma City, OK.

    Cities that invest in physical activity facilities tend to do well on the index. “"We really believe that if people don't have the environment to exercise, they probably won't," Dr. Walt Thompson, a professor of exercise physiology at Georgia State University and chairman of the advisory board that created the index, told USA Today. He recommends that policy makers who are interested in making their metropolitan areas healthier look at making simple changes that add up to major health improvements. These can include banning smoking in all public places and requiring physical education for students who are in all grade levels.

  • To help policymakers in each metropolitan area gauge how their community is doing, the index provides Areas of Excellence as well as Improvement Priority Areas for each area. For instance, the Atlanta area’s six Areas of Excellence are: lower death rate for diabetes; more golf courses per capita; more park units per capita; more recreation centers per capita; more swimming pools per capita; and more tennis courts per capita. Areas of improvement where the score was worse than 20 percent of the target goal included: higher percentage currently smoking; higher percent with asthma; higher percent with angina or coronary heart disease; higher percent with diabetes; lower percent of city land area as parkland; fewer acres of parkland per capita; fewer farmers’ markets per capita; lower percent using public transportation to work; lower percent bicycling or walking to work; fewer ball diamonds per capita; fewer dog parks per capita; lower park-related expenditures per capita; and fewer primary health care providers per capita.

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    So that means that even the metropolitan areas that are on the lower rungs of the rankings have Areas of Excellence. (Oklahoma City had three of them – more acres of parkland per capita, more farmers markets per capita, and more golf courses per capita.)

    So if you live in a large metropolitan area, I hope you’ll peruse this report and learn more about what your area is doing well and what improvements are recommended.  This is your chance to get involved and to help the community in which you live become healthier.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Hellmich, N. (2013). How does your hometown stack up among fittest cities? USA Today.

    American Council of Sports Medicine. (2013). ACSM American Fitness Index: Actively Moving America to Better Health.

Published On: May 31, 2013