An annual report published by the American College of Sports Medicine has named Washington DC as the fittest city in America, again. Washington beat 49 of the country’s major metropolitan areas to take first place.
America’s fittest city is ranked against two major health categories; personal health and preventable disease rates. Personal health is broken down to exercise, healthy eating, obesity, smoking, and diabetes rates. Preventable disease data is gathered from each city’s environmental factors including number of parks, usage of public transport, walking distance to parks, farmers markets, and recreational facilities according to Huffington Post.
This is the third year running that Washington has taken the title as America’s fittest city according to Men’s Fitness and is the ninth year that cities across the U.S. have been ranked on fitness.
Washington took the top title due to its high rank in environment-related expenditures. More than 96 percent of people live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Washington also has low rates of smoking, cardiovascular disease, diabetes-related deaths, and mental health problems according to AOL.
Following Washington as Americas fittest city was Minneapolis, Minnesota, in second place, and Denver, Colorado, in third. At the other end of the scale Indianapolis, Oklahoma City and Louisville are the lowest ranking cities according to UPI.
Overall, the index uncovered a positive upward trend across America with 77 percent of Americans reported as having exercised in the past 30 days. That’s up 12 percent from 2015. There was also a 5 percent decline in people who smoked, a 7 percent fall in diabetes-related deaths and a 5 percent increase in total park expenditure per resident.
Walter R. Thompson, chair of the American Fitness Index (AFI) advisory board, said: “That’s a huge increase. Usually we will see a one or two percent increase.”
The top three fit cities for 2016 according to the AFI showed increased walking by residents, more parkland for physical activity, and lower overall rates of diabetes and heart problems.
“Cities with a built-in environment that supports people who want to be healthy, generally have a healthier population.”
“Cities that fall on the low end of our rankings have the opposite of that,” he added. “They don’t have the same number of parks, their cities aren’t walk-able, or they don’t spend as much money [maintaining] their parks.”
Since 2015 total fitness scores rose for 30 of the 50 cities ranked, but 19 cities fell, according to the AFI report. The cities with the sharpest drop are Las Vegas, Orlando, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
The highest and lowest ranked cities are directly related to what services are offered in each city. The Nations Capital and Americas fittest city spends $346 per resident on park-related expenditures, and 96.3 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park. The report’s lowest ranking city, Indianapolis, only spends $24 per resident on park upkeep and has only 31.6 percent of its population living near a park showing that if people have more parks around them they are more likely to utilize them and be fitter.
“Our overarching goal is to offer communities and residents resources that can help them assess, plan and implement measures for a quality, healthier life,” Thompson said.
Another positive is that twice as many states have policies requiring physical education to be taught at elementary, middle or high schools the AFI report noted. This means mean a new generation of fitter Americans are being taught to live well.
As previous years have shown, cities can demand change and move themselves up or down the list with a little motivation. Residents in Charlotte used the AFI guide to inspire change and more farmers markets. Charlotte has since moved from spot 43 in 2014 to spot 39 in 2016.
“A few years ago, the people of Charlotte wanted to see more farmers markets,” Thompson said. Grassroots organizations came together and are “now a powerful voice to the city and to the mayor. They are demanding change and the mayor’s listening.”
The Top 20 cities are ranked below:
- Washington, D.C.
- Minneapolis, Minn.
- Denver, Colo.
- Portland, Ore.
- San Francisco, Calif.
- Seattle, Wash.
- Boston, Mass.
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Hartford, Conn.
- San Diego, Calif.
- San Jose, Calif.
- Chicago, Ill.
- Sacramento, Calif.
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Austin, Tex.
- Raleigh, N.C.
- Baltimore, Md.
- Richmond, Va.
- Virginia Beach, Va.
- Milwaukee, Wisc.
For the rank of all 50 cities please click here.
[Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]