Spotlight on Jacksonville: Health and Fitness in Florida’s Largest Metro Area

Today’s post takes a look at the metropolitan statistical area of Jacksonville, Fla., inclusive of Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns counties. Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the contiguous United States and boasts one of the largest urban park systems in the country.

Jacksonville ranked 31st in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index® () data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 46.7 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011, dropping it into the lower half of ranked areas, from a rank of 24th and a score of 51.2 in 2010.

Florida’s largest metro area ranked 36th on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care.

While Jacksonville fell near average in categories related to physical activity, it combined a much higher than average percentage of smokers (21.3%) with a lower than average percentage of people eating 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables per day (20.5%), indicating fair health behaviors for the area.

Additionally, Jacksonville residents ranked average in most areas related to chronic health problems, had higher percentages of diabetics and deaths related to diabetes.

The area ranked 28th on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Jacksonville’s greatest asset to its built environment is its parkland acreage at 57.2 acres per capita, it ranks much higher than the MSA average of 18.9 acres per capita. Furthermore, the metro area’s recreational facilities ranked higher than the MSA average in categories including ball diamonds, park playgrounds, park units, recreation centers and swimming pools.

Moreover, Jacksonville residents have the advantage of a number of natural resources including miles of beaches, waterways, and preservation lands.

For a complete list of the Jacksonville’s strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the website and download the Jacksonville report at