Home » In the News

Category: In the News

pedestrians in cross walk

October is Pedestrian Safety Month

The release of the 2020 American Fitness Index saw the average  pedestrian fatality rate across  the U.S.’s 100 largest cities grow from 2.2 deaths per 100,000 residents to 2.6.  That represents   approximately 1,680 lives lost, an increase of   261 deaths from the previous report.

Neighborhoods connected by sidewalks, protected bike lanes, lighting and benches are essential for reducing pedestrian fatalities. Safety, both real and perceived, can impact how often residents walk or bike in their neighborhoods. The 10 deadliest cities for pedestrians averaged 5.5 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents while the 10 safest cities averaged 0.6 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

St. Paul, MN has the lowest pedestrian fatalities at .3 deaths per 100,000 residents









To raise awareness of this rising number, several states have launched October as Pedestrian Safety Month.

“Pedestrian deaths are unacceptably high so federal leadership to achieve zero deaths is absolutely critical. As motor vehicles have become increasingly safer for occupants due to design changes and the addition of supplemental safety features, the same can’t be said for pedestrians. More must be done to ensure people on foot can safely travel our roadways.” – Pam Shadel Fischer, GHSA Sr. Director of External Engagement and author of several national best practice reports on pedestrian,  bicyclist  and  micromobility  safety.

The most dangerous cities for pedestrians are (average deaths per 100,000 residents):

100.  Hialeah, FL (7.5)

99. Phoenix, AZ (6.6)

98. Albuquerque, MN (6.1)

97. Stockton, CA (5.5)

96.  (tie) Miami, FL (5.1)

96. (tie) Tampa, FL (5.1)

96. (tie) Detroit, MI (5.1)

93. (tie) St. Petersburg, FL (4.9)

93. (tie) New Orleans, LA (4.9)

91. El Paso, TX (4.7)

How does your city rank?

orange sky, poor city air quality

Unhealthy Air Quality in the U.S. Pacific Northwest

As fires plague the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, residents in the area must be particularly cautious when spending time outdoors due to poor air quality. As Dr. Liz Joy points out in a previous Fitness Index blog post:

There is incontrovertible evidence linking poor air quality to adverse health outcomes. This is especially true for people with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, healthy people are at risk too. Exposure to air pollution has been linked to a higher risk of developing asthma, and recent studies have identified links between air pollution and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

You have likely seen eerie images on social media and the news of orange skies, particularly in the Bay Area of California. A healthy air quality index (AQI) range for any given day is a score between 0-50. Today’s (Friday, September 11, 2020) score in San Francisco, CA, is in the 200 range, which is considered “Unhealthy” to “Very Unhealthy” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this AQI range, everyone may experience mild to serious health effects, and members of sensitive groups (those with lung/heart disease, older adults, children and teens) are more likely to experience serious health effects. Download the airnow.gov app for your smart phone or visit www.airnow.gov, and review the AQI for your local area.

What is poor air quality?

The EPA measures the quality of ambient air for five major air pollutants that affect health and are regulated by the Clean Air Act. These are:

  1. Ground-level ozone
  2. Particle pollution (a.k.a. particulate matter)
  3. Carbon monoxide
  4. Sulfur dioxide
  5. Nitrogen dioxide

The current air quality dangers in the Pacific Northwest are fueled by wildfires. According to the EPA:

Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles. These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs. They can cause a range of health problems, from burning eyes and a runny nose to aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases. Exposure to particle pollution is even linked to premature death.

Learn more about how smoke from fires can affect your health in this post from the EPA.

Learn more and resources

Check out these ACSM and American Fitness Index original resources on air quality:

Learn more and stay active at home:


Healthy Eating in America’s 100 Largest Cities

The ACSM American Fitness Index, supported by the Anthem Foundation, ranks the 100 largest cities in America on a variety of personal and community health indicators, including number of farmers markets and fruit & vegetable consumption.

The 2020 rankings  revealed that these cities average 18.7 farmers markets per 1,000,000 residents, with Washington, D.C.,  topping  the list with 82.6 farmers markets per 1,000,000 residents.  Farmers markets are not only an essential resource for access to fresh produce, but they also stimulate the local economy. Check out tips for shopping seasonally at your local farmers market here.  Need assistance locating your nearest farmers market?  Use this handy search tool from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

farmers markets per 1M residents, top 10 list


When it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption,  many  of the ranked cities fall significantly below the recommend serving intake. Adults are recommended to consume at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day.   The average rate of residents meeting these recommendations across the ranked cities in 16.3% and 33.5%, respectively.  Three cities rank in the top 10 for both indicators:  Nashville, Tn., Arlington, Va.,  and San Jose, Ca.


Arlington, Virginia, es Nombrada “La Ciudad Más en Forma” en 2020 American Fitness Index® Ranking de los 100 mejores

La pandemia de COVID-19, la investigación subraya la importancia de la actividad física, la infraestructura en la batalla por la salud de la comunidad

Lisa Ramage (317) 352-3847 or Lramage@acsm.org (American College of Sports Medicine)

Mike Fulton (301) 651-2508 or MikeF@asheragency.com (Asher Agency)

Leslie Porras (202) 508-7891 or Leslie.Porras@anthem.com (Anthem Foundation)

Indianapolis (14 de julio, 2020) – Arlington, Virginia, ha sido nombrada “la ciudad más en forma de Estados Unidos” en el ranking anual American Fitness Index® publicado por el American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) y  Anthem Foundation, el brazo filantrópico de Anthem, Inc.

El ACSM/Anthem Fitness basado en la ciencia evaluó las 100 ciudades más grandes de los Estados Unidos utilizando 33 comportamientos de salud, enfermedades crónicas e indicadores de infraestructura comunitaria. Seattle, Wash.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Madison, Wis.; San Francisco, Calif.; Washington DC.; Irvine, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Boise, Idaho; y Boston, Mass., completan las 10 ciudades más en forma. Boston hace su primera aparición en el Top 10 este año. Puede acceder a los rankings y puntajes completos, el informe resumido, la herramienta de comparación de ciudades y otros datos en el sitio web del American Fitness en https://www.americanfitnessindex.org.

“Nos complace reforzar nuestro compromiso con nuestras comunidades locales y la salud y el bienestar de la persona integralmente con el Informe de Fitness Index de este año. Estas clasificaciones anuales ofrecen a las ciudades una guía significativa sobre los hábitos de salud dentro de sus comunidades y revelan cuán bien esas comunidades fomentan estilos de vida saludables entre sus residentes”, dijo Gail K. Boudreaux, presidenta y CEO de Anthem, Inc. “Nos complace proporcionar a los municipios la información rica en datos y recursos que necesitan para abordar los determinantes sociales de la salud y motivar a la acción”.

El evolucionante Fitness Index, ahora en su decimotercer año, permite a los líderes enfocarse en políticas, sistemas y estrategias de cambio ambiental que se basan en evidencia y crean sostenibilidad para sus comunidades.

El equilibrio de comportamientos saludables y la infraestructura comunitaria de Arlington le valieron el puesto número 1 en general. Arlington se ubicó en las 10 ciudades principales en 19 de los 33 indicadores en el ACSM/Anthem Fitness Index. Dos indicadores ocuparon el primer lugar, incluida la tasa más baja de adultos con obesidad y la tasa más alta de residentes que cumplen con las pautas de actividad aeróbica y de fuerza. Arlington se ha ganado el título de ciudad más en forma por tres años consecutivos. Puede comparar su ciudad con Arlington u otras en el ranking del Fitness Index accediendo a la Herramienta de Comparación de Ciudades en línea.

La pandemia de COVID-19 demuestra el papel fundamental que juegan las ciudades para garantizar que sus residentes tengan oportunidades e infraestructura para llevar estilos de vida saludables y físicamente activos. “Sabemos por la investigación que la actividad física puede desarrollar un sistema inmunológico más saludable y un bienestar general, lo que ayuda a minimizar los efectos nocivos cuando se esta enfermo y se tiene una enfermedad”, dijo Barbara Ainsworth, Ph.D., MPH, FACSM, presidente de la Junta Asesora del American Fitness Index. “Esta pandemia muestra la necesidad de tener parques localmente, senderos y aceras conectadas en todos los vecindarios que permitan a las personas hacer ejercicio de manera segura. Los líderes y planificadores de la ciudad deben actuar con intensidad y decisión para promulgar políticas y fondos para promover la actividad física, una mejor salud y comunidades más fuertes”.

Ainsworth también señala que los desafíos de salud social existían mucho antes de la pandemia, y el Fitness Index ha proporcionado los datos necesarios para abordarlos durante más de una década. “Debería ser motivo de preocupación nacional que solo uno de cada cuatro estadounidenses cumpla con las pautas nacionales de actividad física y que más de 30 millones hayan sido diagnosticados con una enfermedad cardíaca”, agrega. “Los estilos de vida sedentarios en los Estados Unidos cuestan más de $117 mil millones anualmente en servicios de atención médica, lo que afecta negativamente tanto la salud como el bienestar económico de nuestra nación. Este desafío tiene soluciones locales, y el Fitness Index es una receta para que las comunidades generen cambios positivos”.

Los hallazgos adicionales de los rankings del 2020 Fitness Index incluyen:

  • En las 100 ciudades, los indicadores mejoraron para la tasa de ejercicio de los residentes; menos personas fumando; parques a una distancia de 10 minutos caminando; y Bike Score, en comparación con 2019.
  • En Buffalo, Nueva York, Toledo, Ohio y Anchorage, Alaska, las clasificaciones mejoraron en al menos 15 puestos desde 2019.
  • Solo el 22% de los adultos en las 100 ciudades más grandes cumplieron con las pautas para actividades aeróbicas y de fuerza. Los adultos necesitan 150 minutos por semana de actividad de intensidad moderada, o aproximadamente 22 minutos por día, para obtener beneficios sustanciales para la salud.
  • En las 100 ciudades, solo el 4.5% de los residentes camina o va en bicicleta al trabajo y solo el 7% usa el transporte público. Boston, Mass.; Jersey City, N.J.; Nueva York, N.Y.; San Francisco, Calif.; y Washington, D.C., informaron los mayores porcentajes.
  • Los vecindarios conectados por aceras, carriles para bicicletas protegidos, iluminación y bancos reducen las muertes de peatones. Las características de seguridad pueden afectar la frecuencia con la que los residentes eligen caminar o andar en bicicleta. Las 10 ciudades más mortales para los peatones (cuatro están en Florida) tuvieron un promedio de 5,5 muertes de peatones por cada 100 residentes, mientras que las 10 ciudades más seguras promediaron 0,6 muertes por cada 100.000 residentes.
  • Las ciudades que experimentaron condiciones climáticas extremas llegaron al top 10: Minneapolis, Minn. (# 3); Madison, Wis. (#4); y Denver, Colo. (#8), que muestra que los líderes locales pueden facilitar que los residentes se mantengan físicamente activos durante todo el año.

Los rankings de 2020 ACSM/Anthem Fitness Index son los siguientes: hay disponibles más rankings de datos comparativos e indicadores en https://www.americanfitnessindex.org.


Overall Rank


1Arlington, Va.
2Seattle, Wash.
3Minneapolis, Minn.
4Madison, Wis.
5San Francisco, Calif.
6Washington, D.C.
7Irvine, Calif.
8Denver, Colo.
9Boise, Idaho
10Boston, Mass.
11San Diego, Calif.
12St. Paul, Minn.
13Chicago, Ill.
14Oakland, Calif.
15San Jose, Calif.
16Portland, Ore.
17Honolulu, Hawaii
18Atlanta, Ga.
19Lincoln, Neb.
20Sacramento, Calif.
21New York, N.Y.
22Pittsburgh, Pa.
23Milwaukee, Wis.
24Albuquerque, N.M.
25Buffalo, N.Y.
26Chula Vista, Calif.
27Santa Ana, Calif.
28Virginia Beach, Va.
29Long Beach, Calif.
30St. Petersburg, Fla.
31Austin, Texas
32Aurora, Colo.
33Colorado Springs, Colo.
34Durham, N.C.
35Anaheim, Calif.
36Raleigh, N.C.
37Anchorage, Alaska
38Norfolk, Va.
39Jersey City, N.J.
40Fremont, Calif.
41Newark, N.J.
42Omaha, Neb,
43Orlando, Fla.
44Los Angeles, Calif.
45Tampa, Fla.
46Richmond, Va.
47Miami, Fla.
48Plano, Texas
49Lubbock, Texas
50New Orleans, La.
51Cincinnati, Ohio
52Philadelphia, Pa.
53Baltimore, Md.
54Glendale, Ariz.
55Reno, Nev.
56Dallas, Texas
57Cleveland, Ohio
58Tucson, Ariz.
59Riverside, Calif.
60Greensboro, N.C.
61Nashville, Tenn.
62Hialeah, Fla.
63Chandler, Ariz.
64Scottsdale, Ariz.
65Stockton, Calif.
66Garland, Texas
67Charlotte, N.C.
68Mesa, Ariz.
69Houston, Texas
70Winston-Salem, N.C.
71Phoenix, Ariz.
72St. Louis, Mo.
73Irving, Texas
74Columbus, Ohio
75Chesapeake, Va.
76Fresno, Calif.
77El Paso, Texas
78Baton Rouge, La.
79Kansas City, Mo.
80Gilbert, Ariz.
81Toledo, Ohio
82Jacksonville, Fla.
83Laredo, Texas
84San Antonio, Texas
85Corpus Christi, Texas
86Lexington, Ky.
87Henderson, Nev.
88Las Vegas, Nev.
89Louisville, Ky.
90Fort Worth, Texas
91Wichita, Kan.
92Fort Wayne, Ind.
93Arlington, Texas
94Indianapolis, Ind.
95Detroit, Mich.
96Memphis, Tenn.
97Tulsa, Okla.
98North Las Vegas, Nev.
99Bakersfield, Calif.
100Oklahoma City, Okla.


Acerca de American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

ACSM es la organización de medicina deportiva y ciencias del ejercicio más grande del mundo. Más de 50.000 miembros y profesionales certificados en todo el mundo están dedicados a avanzar e integrar la investigación científica para mejorar las aplicaciones educativas y prácticas de la ciencia del ejercicio y la medicina deportiva. Como líder mundial en la promoción de los beneficios de la actividad física, ACSM aboga por una legislación que ayude al gobierno y la comunidad de la salud a hacer de la actividad física una prioridad. ACSM anima al Congreso a apoyar la financiación continua de parques, senderos y rutas seguras a la escuela para permitir que todos los estadounidenses cumplan con las recomendaciones de actividad física prescritas incluidas en las Pautas Nacionales de Actividad Física. Encuentre detalles en www.acsm.org.

Acerca de Anthem Foundation

Anthem Foundation es el brazo filantrópico de Anthem, Inc. y a través de contribuciones y programas de caridad, la Foundation promueve el compromiso inherente de Anthem, Inc. para mejorar la salud y el bienestar de las personas y familias en las comunidades que Anthem, Inc. y sus planes de salud afiliados sirven. La Foundation enfoca su financiamiento en iniciativas estratégicas que conforman su Programa Healthy Generations, una iniciativa multigeneracional que se enfoca en: salud materna, prevención de diabetes, prevención de cáncer, salud cardíaca y estilos de vida saludables y activos, esfuerzos de salud conductual y programas que benefician a las personas con discapacidades La Foundation también coordina el programa Dollars for Dollars de la compañía durante todo el año, que proporciona un 100 por ciento de las donaciones de los asociados, así como sus programas de servicio comunitario Volunteer Time Off y Dollars for Doers. Para obtener más información sobre Anthem Foundation, por favor visite http://www.anthem.foundation y su blog en https://medium.com/anthemfoundation.


# # #

child climbing at a park

The American Fitness Index in 2020 | The Essential Nature of Parks

For more than a decade the ACSM American Fitness Index® has provided an annual snapshot of community fitness for some of the largest cities and metro areas in the United States. From the start, the Fitness Index acknowledged the importance of parks, recreation facilities and assets like playgrounds, tennis courts and swimming pools. Not only are these resources for physical and mental health, they are civic, social and economic drivers. In a word, parks and recreation are essential.

Parks and public spaces are having a moment in 2020. The last four months have seen extraordinary changes for American cities and their residents. When the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading across the U.S., public officials closed schools and government offices, issued stay-at-home orders and restricted travel to only essential functions. With more time at home, many people did something they’ve never done before – they visited their local parks, walked on a neighborhood trail or dusted off their bikes and rode with confidence in a bike lane for the first time. City infrastructure like parks, trails, sidewalks and bike lanes were viewed in a whole new light. They were no longer just nice-to-have amenities; instead they quickly became essential public resources.

As the days and weeks wore on, parks transformed into escapes from our homes. On a dime, parks departments moved from organizing summer rec leagues and swimming lessons, to providing meals for school children, and eventually, to any person experiencing food insecurity. Parks departments also offered childcare for front-line workers, a critical component for ensuring workforce capacity was maximized.

Parks are much more than ball fields, picnic tables and charcoal grills. Parks are civic places as well, essential for historic and current protests seeking social justice and human rights. From speeches and marches on the National Mall to demonstrations in local parks, these public spaces have a long history of serving as a platform for change makers.

This agility and willingness to meet the needs of the community is not new to parks departments. For years they have delivered essential services, but rarely have they been funded at levels that reflect their value to the community. As the economic recession deepens, city tax revenue is in steep decline. Parks departments face dramatic budget cuts, hiring freezes and layoffs. Despite having filled critical gaps in the community, while generating more than $166 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 1.1 million jobs, public officials do not perceive parks departments as contributing to their biggest concern – economic development.

Parks, trails and recreation facilities attract business development and new residents, shape the quality of life for entire neighborhoods, and drive investment in communities. It is in all of our interest to call on public officials at all levels of government to increase funding for parks and recreation and to ensure equitable distribution of funds, resources and programming. As the writer and journalist Marty Rubin said, “Parks and playgrounds are the soul of a city.”

Authors: Barbara Ainsworth, Ph.D., M.P.H., FACSM, FNAK; Stella Volpe, Ph.D., R.D.N., ACSM-CEP, FACSM; Gretchen Patch, M.P.H. 

woman running on park trail

Take to the Trails!

The ancient curse “may you live in interesting times!” seems fitting right now. While the stay-at-home order has constrained our normally hectic lives, we have been able to spend more time with our families and participate in activities we didn’t take time to do before, like going for walks. Here in the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic is occurring in months when the weather is more favorable for outdoor activities. This has led to some very positive developments, one of which is more people walking and exercising outdoors.

From a public health perspective, walking, biking or any outdoor physical activity is a great form of exercise. Walking, specifically, is very beneficial as evidenced by many studies.[1],[2]  Walking reduces blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and other cardiovascular risks; the risk of type II diabetes, preterm births and low-for-gestational-age births; as well as incidence of strokes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, asthma and coronary heart disease.  And, those are just the physical benefits!

Walking outside offers even more benefits. A summary of the research on this topic[3] indicates that exercising in the natural environment has direct and positive impact on wellbeing, including a greater reduction in blood pressure and cortisol (a hormone released during stress) compared to “synthetic” environments such as gyms, urban spaces and indoor exercise. It is thought that the outdoor environment reflects the role of nature in recovery from stress and mental fatigue. Also, exercising in nature might encourage starting and continuing health-enhancing behaviors like jogging on a path in a park. Interestingly, a review of outdoor versus indoor exercise[4] shows the greater benefit of exercising outside is on mental or emotional measures like better attention, higher energy and tranquility, as well as less anger, fatigue, sadness and depression.

Many communities and municipalities have invested in expanding trails and sidewalks for residents to utilize for exercise and commuting to nearby businesses. While these amenities add great benefits in terms of better health, desirability and home value, these are often near streets with vehicular traffic. This results in added stress from passing cars and trucks not to mention exposure to noise and fumes. Fortunately, some multipurpose trails in suburban and less-developed corridors have fewer adverse factors. State parks and recreation areas also include walking trails, offering more favorable places to exercise in stress-free, clean-air environments. Many residents in the U.S. have access to nearby trails in natural environments which would be ideal for exercising. Do you know of some nearby trails in parks or undeveloped areas that you can use? I’ll bet you do. In case you don’t, use this find a park resource to help.

Author: Terrell Zollinger

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743506005172

[2] https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/42/4/238.short

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323

[4] https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-10-456?dom=prime&src=syn

Intentional Daily Movement | Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

My name is Olivia Affuso and I am a streak runner. I have run at least one mile every day for the last 600 consecutive days. This may seem like a lot, but there are people like Jon Sutherland who has been running every day for more than 50 years! Now, that, is a lot of running. Of course, this is more than enough, but the science is clear: We humans need regular physical activity to stay mentally and physically well.

Getting started can be tough as people move from ‘just thinking about it’ to actually engaging in physical activities like brisk walking, running or strength training. Research suggests that it takes about 66 days to establish a habit, and additional strategies may be needed to recover from any unexpected breaks due to injury and other things. Keeping it going long-term can be a challenge. Let’s just say, life happens.

2020 has thrown us all a serious curveball with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have had to change our routines—including those routines for our exercise goals or resolutions that often wane within the first months of the year.

But, how about during the pandemic? My observation, at least via social media, is that more people are engaging in exercise to deal with the stress of the ‘stay-at-home’ measures than before the crisis. I have noticed more live streaming of dance fitness, yoga, body weight strength classes and more. The online running groups I belong to are very active with individuals posting about their progress on one or more virtual races such as the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee – 1000K, which requires running five miles per day to complete it by the August 31st, 2020 deadline. There are over 18,000 registered participants from around the world. Of course, the number of participants is not evidence that previously sedentary people are getting more active. Hopefully, we will have some data about how COVID-19 is impacting people’s physical activity from a new ongoing study by researchers at Ohio University.

Has the pandemic affected my exercise routine? Absolutely! Initially, I experienced a steep drop in the duration and intensity of my running (from 35 miles to 15 miles/week) due to an increase in caregiving responsibilities as well as transitioning my in-person public health course of 56 students to an online format. However, I did not break my streak. I couldn’t break my streak. There is no way the 300 plus ladies in my online support and accountability group would let me quit without good reason. As a matter of fact, we currently have a 150-day one intentional mile challenge going until the end of May. Many of the women are on track to complete this challenge and several have shared their plans to keep their habit of intentional daily movement going for at least 365 days. Take Lisa for instance. She is a corporate executive who struggled with being consistent with her exercise until she started her first 50-day challenge. Not only is Lisa now meeting the national physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, she is walking a 5K every day and six miles virtually on Sundays with friends. She says she has never felt better and has no plans to break her walking streak.

Could this pandemic be your catalyst to start your own movement ‘streak’? Yes! You can do it. Here are my suggestions for getting started:

1) Choose an activity you like to do

2) Set a minimum time or distance for each day

3) Pick a start date

4) Find support

5) Be flexible

6) Have fun!

Of course, check with your physician before starting any exercise routine.


Author: Olivia Affuso, Ph.D., FACSM,  is a faculty member at the University of Alabama and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine Board of Trustees.

people in crosswalk american fitness index

2020 Fitness Index Release to be delayed

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), in collaboration with philanthropic partner, Anthem Foundation, will delay the release of the 2020 American Fitness Index rankings until later this year. The Fitness Index evaluates and celebrates America’s 100 largest cities and their efforts to support healthy, active lifestyles.


Physical activity has always been one of the most effective ways to ensure good health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, staying active is increasingly important to both physical and mental health, including developing a strong immune system and building mental resilience. ACSM, the Anthem Foundation and the Fitness Index encourage all people to get and stay active while following safety recommendations by federal, state and local public health officials. For more resources on how to be active at home visit http://www.acsm.org/read-research/newsroom/news-releases/news-detail/2020/03/16/staying-physically-active-during-covid-19-pandemic.


This post will be updated with additional information as it becomes available. Please check back regularly.

physical activity american fitness index rankings blog

Physical Activity | Benefits Year-Round

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) American Fitness Index is one of the most credible and reliable assessments of individual and community fitness across the United States. The indicators included in the report are timely, relevant, and valuable to address both unique and common factors between cities. In 2019, The Fitness Index added four new indicators: pedestrian fatalities, air quality, Bike Score, and Complete Street policies.

The advisory board added the indicators mentioned above to place more emphasis on the built environment and the role it plays on health for the population. It is doubtful that not being able to enjoy the outdoor facilities in your neighborhood would create an often-insurmountable barrier for additional physical activity.

With the new year in full swing, many have made a resolution to be more active and take better care of their health. Still, more than half of the country is in the middle of a cold winter, which can mean slippery roads and less daylight in the afternoon. The environment many Americans call home may not encourage a healthy behavior change. And sure, they may decide that they will brave the cold to take a walk. Still, as soon as they step outside on to the public sidewalk, they lose their footing because the city has not done such a great job of clearing the snow and ice from the last winter storm. Or stories of people falling victim to car accidents while walking may be discouraging. These factors are within the control of the local governments, and these indicators will allow them to have the information to create a space for a positive change. Being able to walk safely because the sidewalk is not slippery or more streetlights for better visibility may encourage more sustainable behavior.

Living a more active lifestyle has numerous benefits for people of all ages. The current recommendations for physical activity include 150 min/week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 min/week of vigorous aerobic physical activity, and at least two days of strength training that involves all major muscle groups. Increased physical activity has the potential of leading to long-term health benefits. There is substantial evidence of the positive effects associated with increased physical activity on physical health, mental health, and all-cause mortality. Look above and notice that exercise was never mentioned before this sentence. You can be active in any matter you choose.

According to data from the 2019 American Fitness Index, 51.2% of residents report meeting the aerobic activity guidelines. Of those, only 22% stated they were meeting both aerobic and strength recommendations. While there are many options for indoor fitness, they can be costly and inconvenient. Communities can encourage residents to meet both aerobic and resistance training recommendations by placing outdoor adult fitness gyms in local parks. Cities falling in the top 25 of the fittest cities in the U.S. have about 35% more residents living within a 10-minute walk to a local park than other cities. This proximity to parks provides greater opportunity for residents to be more active. A higher number of outdoor adult fitness parks, especially in underserved communities, may increase the likelihood of producing positive change in overall fitness and health.

On an individual level, finding ways to increase physical activity can be done everywhere you frequent. At home, choosing to do a few jumping jacks or squats during a commercial break will improve your physical activity when done for an hour-long television show. When at work, taking at least one minute every hour to walk around the office can make a big difference in a week. In your neighborhood, getting off the bus a stop early to walk will increase your physical activity. All these small changes can yield significant benefits to your health and fitness.

Whatever you can do to increase the amount of time you are moving is going to be the best thing you can do for your health. Please beware of trying to do something that you genuinely dislike, as these are the things you will most likely not do for very long. So, go for a walk or play with your kids. Either way you should aim to have fun and have an active new year.

And just for good measure, if you haven’t already, and it’s safe to do so, how about taking a short walk? Remember, health is wealth.

Author: Alvin Morton, III, M.S., is a doctoral student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a member of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board.

blog, health disparities in built environments

Disparities in the Quality of Physical Activity Environments

There are race, ethnic and socioeconomic status (SES) disparities in physical activity. The disparities differ by domain of physical activity (e.g., occupation, transportation), but there is consistent evidence that leisure time physical activity is lower among individuals with lower income and members of most race and ethnic minority groups. One possible explanation of these disparities is that communities of color and those living in lower-SES neighborhoods have lower quality physical activity environments. Environments can be designed to make it easier to be active or to create barriers to physical activity. There are national health objectives and public health imperatives to reduce physical activity disparities and improving environments in disadvantaged neighborhoods could be a strategy for long-term benefits for entire communities.

Our research group has studied disparities in two general types of physical activity environments, or places where people are often active. One is the park environment, the other is the streetscape environment, and both are relevant to leisure time physical activity. Parks are obvious places for recreational activity, but walking is the most common type of activity at virtually all ages, and the most common place to walk is on sidewalks and streets in the neighborhood.


Access to parks and park quality

Past studies of access to parks have produced mixed results about whether there are fewer parks in low-income communities of color. Our research group was particularly interested in whether there were disparities in the quality of parks. We defined quality as the number of different types of sports and physical activity facilities, such as ball fields, trails, basketball courts and playgrounds, as well as number of amenities such as restrooms and water fountains.

We observed 543 parks in and around Baltimore, MD and Seattle, WA neighborhoods selected to vary widely on SES. The results were very different across regions. In the Baltimore region we found the expected lower quality of physical activity facilities and amenities in mostly-minority neighborhoods. In the Seattle region, the surprising result was that lower-income areas had parks with more sports and physical activity facilities and more amenities. We referred to the Seattle pattern as “equitable differences,” meaning these economically deprived neighborhoods needed higher quality parks because they did not have access to fitness centers and exercise programs that required fees and transportation.


Streetscape quality

Studies of overall community design, such as having shops and schools within walking distance, often do not find disparities across race, ethnic and SES groups. However, our interest was in the quality of streetscapes, or the extent to which streets and sidewalks are designed to be comfortable, attractive and safe for pedestrians. We conducted observations in over 2200 locations in Baltimore, MD, Seattle, WA and San Diego County, CA regions. We coded presence and quality of sidewalks, quality and safety of street crossings, aesthetic features like landscaping and indicators of social disorder such as graffiti.

Again, the results were complex. Though there were some differences across regions, there were many more common findings. We found disparities, such that low-income and mostly-minority neighborhoods had worse aesthetic and social-disorder features, such as graffiti, litter, broken windows and fewer trees. But we also saw evidence of “equitable differences,” with high-income and mostly white neighborhoods generally having worse crosswalks, intersections and sidewalks.


Lessons learned: Patterns of environmental disparities are local

Our studies found some evidence of environmental “disparities:” park quality and pedestrian features that were worse in low-income and/or mostly-minority neighborhoods. We also found “equitable differences:” park quality and pedestrian features that were worse in high-income and/or mostly white neighborhoods. These patterns had not been reported before. The park and streetscape features that exhibited disparities varied between cities, but we discovered a clue that helps explain some of the differences by region. In the Seattle region, a King County ordinance guaranteed equal facilities and services across neighborhoods that could explain the high-quality parks in low-income neighborhoods. This is evidence that local policies determine whether there are disparities in physical activity environments.

It should not be assumed that parks and pedestrian streetscapes are lower quality in low-income areas and communities of color. It should also not be assumed all neighborhoods have equal quality physical activity environments. The only way to determine local patterns of environmental disparities is to collect local data, but such data are rarely collected.

Park and streetscape features are modifiable and offer a feasible and affordable approach to creating activity-friendly environments in all neighborhoods.  Conducting observations in numerous neighborhoods can help local policy makers, planners and community groups identify disparities, recommend targeted changes and increase physical activity opportunities for all residents, regardless of race, ethnicity or income. Simple observational measures are available that can be used by community residents to assess their neighborhood environments. Community groups are encouraged to work with government agencies to document the quality of physical activity environments in their neighborhoods and use local data to develop plans for improvement.



Thornton, C.M., Conway, T.L., Cain, K.L., Gavand, K.A., Saelens, B.E., Frank, L.D., Geremia, C.M., Glanz, K., King, A.C., and Sallis, J.F. (2016). Disparities in pedestrian streetscape environments by income and race/ethnicity. SSM-Population Health, 2, 206-216.

Engelberg, J.K., Conway, T.L., Geremia, C., Cain, K.L., Saelens, B.E., Glanz, K., Frank, L.D., and Sallis, J.F. (2016). Socioeconomic and race/ethnic disparities in observed park quality. BMC Public Health, 16:395.

Research brief


James Sallis, PhD, FACSMJames F. Sallis, Ph.D, FACSM is former Vice President of ACSM and is a member of the ACSM Strategic Health Initiative on Health Equity. He has been studying physical activity about 40 years, and his research interests are promoting physical activity and understanding policy and environmental influences on physical activity, nutrition, and obesity.  He has authored over 700 scientific publications, is one of the world’s most cited authors, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.