Want to be in the fittest city in the United States? Then head towards the capital for some healthy capital gains.
The American College of Sports Medicine released its annual ranking of the top fittest cities in America with Arlington, Virginia, a city right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., topping the list for the second year in a row. It was followed by Seattle and Minneapolis.
Arlington ranked first in both personal health for its citizens as well as community and environmental factors. Ninety-two percent of the city’s residents reported exercising within the previous month and 32.9% were meeting the ACSM and Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for aerobic and strength activity. In comparison, only 75% of Americans in the 100 largest cities reported exercising and only 22% of Americans met the organization’s guidelines for exercise in the 100 largest cities.
Boise, Idaho and San Jose, California, both got knocked off the top 10 from last year by Irvine, California, and San Francisco.
“In 2019, we added four new indicators and eliminated indicators that were harder to change so it may have influenced the rankings,” said Barbara Ainsworth, the chair of the American Fitness Index Board.
She said besides Arlington, the next top cities were very close in ranking and are all outstanding in terms of providing recreational facilities for their residents to be active.
Cities were ranked in two major categories. Personal health covers the health of individuals living in the city based on factors like heart health, diet and percentage of people exercising. The second category, community, and environment consider air quality, frequency of farmers markets, amount of parks in the city and pedestrian safety.
The index also factors in a city’s recreational centers like city parks, swimming pools and basketball hoops that give people opportunities to get active as well as the frequency of farmers markets.
So while New York City ranked number one when it came to using of public transportation and walking, it ranked seventh when it came to having parks within a 10-minute walk and did not rank at all for having enough safe and “well-maintained parks.” New York also didn’t rank in the top 10 when it came to having enough farmers markets or having its residents eating two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day.
The ACSM added pedestrian safety, bike score, air quality and complete streets policies citing that pedestrian fatalities have increased by 35% in the last 10 years, which can influence how often people bike or walk in the city.
The report also notes that people of color and those in low-income neighborhoods have the highest rates of pedestrian deaths. St. Louis, Missouri, which has a black population of 49.2%, ranked as the deadliest city in the U.S. Atlanta and New Orleans, which both have a black population of more than 50%, also ranked as one of the top 10 deadliest cities.
Ainsworth said cities do take their rankings seriously, and that the index should serve as a wake-up call for people that their cities are a safer place by enacting certain policies.
“We’ve seen cities develop coalitions to address some of the shortcomings their cities may have,” Ainsworth said.
So where does your city rank?
The top 10 fittest cities are:
- Arlington, Va.
- Seattle, Wash.
- Minneapolis, Minn.
- San Francisco, Calif.
- Madison, Wis.
- Washington, D.C.
- St. Paul, Minn.
- Irvine, Calif.
- Denver, Colo.
- Portland, Ore.
The 10 deadliest cities:
- St. Louis, Mo.
- Albuquerque, N.M.
- St. Petersburg, Fla.
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Jacksonville, Fla.
- Orlando, Fla.
- Tampa, Fla.
- New Orleans, La.
- Bakersfield, Calif. and San Antonio, Texas (tie)