Spotlight on Phoenix: Health and Fitness in the Valley of the Sun

Today’s post takes a look at the metropolitan statistical area of Phoenix, Arizona; also known as the “Valley of the Sun”. Phoenix is the largest state capital in the country and the metropolitan area is the 14th largest by population. The city is divided into 15 urban villages each with their own unique character.

Phoenix ranked 32nd 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 45.3 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011, moving slightly down from a score of 47.4 in 2010, however the rank remains the same.

The study reports 82.6% of the population participated in physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days; 8% above the U.S. average. Accordingly, the city has a lower percent with angina or coronary heart disease and lower death rates for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Among the 50 largest metro areas, Phoenix has the highest percentage of residents with asthma (11.9%). Overall, the Valley of the Sun ranked 19th in personal health indicators.

However, the metro area ranked 44th in community/environmental indicators. The city boasts a decent amount of parkland as percent of city area, but falls behind in number of recreational facilities such as ball diamonds, playgrounds, golf courses, tennis courts, etc. In Arizona, the state only requires physical education classes at one level (among elementary, middle and high school). There are only 71.0 primary health care providers per 100,000 residents, way below the MSA average of 93.2.

The city struggles with poverty and unemployment, but has made strides since 2010. Due in part to high heat conditions, the city reports a lower percent using public transportation and biking to work.

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

Phoenix skyline