Tag: American College of Sports Medicine

We’re Expanding! Fitness Index will now rank America’s 100 largest cities

The American Fitness Index is proud to announce that the 2018 rankings will be released on May 15th! This year’s rankings feature some exciting changes. 

We’re expanding!

For the first ten years of the Fitness Index, the rankings evaluated the 50 largest metro areas. This approach provided important and valuable general messages, but limited the ability to provide targeted assistance to city and community leaders that need specific data at the local level.

With the May 15th release of the 2018 rankings, the Fitness Index will expand to the 100 largest cities in the U.S. This approach distinguishes the largest suburbs from the central cities in the same metro areas. Cities like Plano, TX will now be scored and ranked separately from their Dallas-Fort Worth metro neighbors. The expanded rankings also provide a more inclusive approach by adding cities in states that weren’t represented previously. Welcome to the Fitness Index, Boise, ID!

Despite the shift from metro areas to cities, the methodology and data sources for the Fitness Index remains the same. Learn more about the science behind the Fitness Index here

New tools coming soon

Who doesn’t like fancy new tools? With this year’s rankings release the Fitness Index will also release an interactive city comparison feature. This will allow you to explore differences between cities by comparing to the top ranked city and up to three additional cities. How does NYC compare to LA or Chicago? Does Kansas City, MO rank higher than St. Louis, MO? Which Twin City ranks highest and why? Get curious and let your inner data scientist go to work. 

Reimagined reporting

Using top 10 lists, modern data visualizations, and inspiring stories from cities working to improve, the rankings report provides new insights and summarizes key information across all 100 cities.

All of these changes allow ACSM to provide better, local data to city leaders and targeted assistance to communities that are ready to make healthy changes.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share how you’ll use the 2018 Fitness Index rankings to make your community healthier and more active using #100fitcities.

100 Largest U.S. Cities



Kansas City




St. Louis
































Jersey City


Chula Vista














Las Vegas


Long Beach


North Las Vegas


Los Angeles










New York






San Diego




San Francisco




San Jose




Santa Ana


Oklahoma City










Colorado Springs


























Corpus Christi


St. Petersburg






El Paso




Fort Worth














Fort Wayne














San Antonio






Baton Rouge




New Orleans










Virginia Beach










St. Paul




Physically active families: Creating healthy habits this fall

In many ways, Fall is a “new year” for American families. For those whose annual schedule revolves around the academic calendar, fall is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. In the spirit of back-to-school season, ACSM’s American Fitness Index hosted a Twitter chat with some of our subject matter expert members who offered advice to families looking to kick-off the school year with healthier habits.

Plan to eat for success

First, Tanya Halliday, Ph.D., R.D. chimed in on tips for eating seasonally, packing healthy lunches and feeding families under the most serious of time-crunches.

“Apples and pumpkin get a lot of action in the fall. Rightfully so—they are delicious, nutritious and versatile produce. But don’t overlook other fall produce like zucchini, eggplant, cantaloupe, pears and others that are in season in many parts of the U.S.”

Halliday also offered a Seasonal Produce Guide  for knowing which fruits and vegetables are in season throughout the year. It’s important to know what produce is the freshest when visiting your local farmers’ market or grocery store!

As far as packing healthy, well-rounded lunches for school and work? Planning ahead is key!

“Plan lunches for the week with your children,” Halliday suggests. “If they are involved in prepping and packing they are more likely to eat it!” Planning ahead also allows you to accurately pack a balanced meal, as opposed to throwing things in a bag during a rushed morning only to find out later that you’ve completely missed key nutrients.

Think about pre-portioning foods, like an individual bag of carrot sticks with a small container of hummus, to make mornings very grab-and-go. It’s also worth-while to invest in insulated lunch bags and ice packs that will keep food at a safe temperature and reduce the risk of food poisoning.

With full family schedules, mornings can be rushed and dinners are often on-the-go or scheduled at home with little time to prepare.

“Planning, prepping, bulk cooking and convenience items can help during the rushed days,” Halliday shared. “I am all about bulk cooking and taking advantage of the freezer for storage.”

Additionally, there are many make-ahead breakfast options like overnight oats and, when dinner is rushed, fast options like frozen vegetables in a steam bag can get meal prep done in a flash!

Encouraging active play

We all know that it’s easy to come home from work or school and lay down on the couch for some TV or internet surfing. Avery Faigenbaum, Ed.D., FACSM, shared his thoughts on how to keep moving and make fitness a family affair.

“Walk the dog, ride bikes, play ball or even bring out the hula hoops!” he said, emphasizing the importance of the whole family having fun while being active together. “Each week try to plan at least one activity together [as a family]—outdoor play, a pick-up game or a hike at a local park.”

But what about when the weather turns too cold or rainy to be outside? “Move the furniture aside and have dance parties,” Faigenbaum suggested. “Let each family member pick a song and get dancing.” Balloon volleyball and indoor hopscotch are other easy ways to get moving, even if you’re in a confined indoor space.

Our favorite suggestion? “Create an indoor zoo full of animal movements!” Faigenbaum added. “Think crocodile planks, bunny hops, frog squats and mountain goat climbers.” To learn more about Faigenbaum’s approach to keeping kids active and healthy, check out his recent article is ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal.

These are all great ideas, but how do you know if your family is getting enough physical activity to be healthy? “Kids need to accumulate at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day,” Faigenbaum says. “And it does not need to be 60 consecutive minutes.” For adults, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, done in at least 10-minute intervals. It is also recommended to complete resistance training of each major muscle group 2-3 times per week.

The key takeaway for healthy active families is fun. As long as everyone is enjoying the activity, they will keep moving!

Seeking out community resources

Many communities across America have facilities and other resources to help your family stay active year-round. Dr. Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM and 61st President of the American College of Sports Medicine, reminded families that city parks and recreation centers are great options if your outdoor space is limited or the weather restricts your activities. Your local Parks & Recreation Department should have a full list of available facilities on their website.

Do you think that your local community could improve its offering of resources for health and wellness? Download the American Fitness Index®’s Community Action Guide to learn how you can make a difference in the health of your own community!

Today Show Looks to ACSM for America’s Healthiest City

To help kick off 2014, The Today Show looked at where in America you should go if you want to be “healthy, wealthy and wise”.

In their search for evaluating America’s healthiest cities, the show’s producers examined a number sources and ultimately settled on the ACSM American Fitness Index®. For the past three years Minneapolis/St. Paul has earned the highest ranking.

ACSM and the Fitness Index Advisory Board are honored to be considered as the best measure of a “healthiest” city. It’s a testament to the research and planning that went into creating the Fitness Index and the work to update the rankings each year since 2008.

For the segment on The Today Show, journalist Craig Melvin spoke with runners and bikers using the city’s expansive trails and paths, highlighted Minneapolis’ robust park and recreation system, and featured a healthy food program called Urban Roots.

The segment also included a portion of an interview with Fitness Index Advisory Board Chair Dr. Walt Thompson.

Check out the segment and read the story on The Today Show website. The 2014 report will be released in May ahead of the ACSM Annual Meeting.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Minneapolis-St. Paul Tops Fit List for Second Straight Year

For the second consecutive year, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the healthiest, fittest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual American Fitness Index® ().

Made possible by a grant from the WellPoint Foundation, the 2012 data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,” evaluated the most populous city areas to identify the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington achieved a high score of 76.4 (out of 100 possible points) to capture the top ranking.

Check out the Quick View to see how each metro area ranked. A full copy of the 2012 data report is available at https://americanfitnessindex.org/report.

The data report reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access and community resources and policies that support physical activity. New to the 2012 data report is a benchmark for each data indicator to help identify areas that need improvement.

“Although many people will gravitate to which cities are fit or less fit, it’s important to remember that there is room for improvement in every community,” added Thompson. “It’s also worth noting that even the lowest-ranked areas have healthy residents and community resources that support health and fitness.”

To assist with measurement and to provide a baseline measure of health and fitness status, ACSM worked with the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts on the methodology of the data report. Researchers analyzed the data gleaned from U.S. Census data, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), The Trust for the Public Land City Park Facts and other existing research data in order to give a scientific, accurate snapshot of the health and fitness status at a metropolitan level.

The data examined fall into two categories:

  1. Personal health indicators
  2. Community and environmental indicators

Building a Healthier Chicago!

ACSM has been proud to work with Assistant Surgeon General Dr. James M. Galloway in the early years of the ACSM American Fitness Index. Dr. Galloway spoke about the importance of the data report to the Building a Healthier Chicago! initiative upon the launch of the program in 2008.

Building a Healthier Chicago! is a collaborative endeavor between the American Medical Association, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and the Office of the Regional Health Administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Region V.

The goal of the campaign is to improve the health of Chicago’s residents and employees through the integration of existing and new public health, medicine and community health activities.

The campaign involves several programs including:

  • F.I.T. City: A restaurant initiative to develop and promote F.I.T. (Fresh, Innovative, and Tasty) menu options through partnerships with restaurants, chefs, culinary schools, health advocates, and community groups.
  • Focus Community: Specific program to help the Austin community, located on Chicago’s west side, gain access to healthy foods. Austin is the most densely populated community within Chicago, but has no chain supermarket thus residents have limited access to healthy foods. Parts of Austin have even been designated as “food deserts.”
  • Building a Healthier Chicago’s Agribusiness: A project aimed to set up markets in food deserts to give residents access to affordable fruits and vegetables. The program worked with the DePaul University Graduate School of Business to create a simple market concept- sell food for a dollar each – two apples for a dollar, four potatoes for a dollar, etc.
  • “Federal Employees: Active and Healthy…Working Well”: A worksite wellness program for federal employees aimed to improve the culture of the city’s federal workplaces to encourage employee wellness through healthy eating, and various physical activities.

Chicago ranked 28th 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 48.9 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011.

The metro area ranked 34th on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care, and 21st on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Pertinent to Building a Healthier Chicago, only 22.5% of the population reports eating 5+ servings of fruits/vegetables a day. However, the area has an above average number of farmers’ markets (17.7/1,000,000).

Building a Healthier Chicago! operates under the Social Ecological Model, which acknowledges how environmental factors impact the decisions people make. This model combines these multiple perspectives and promotes a healthy environment/lifestyle suited for the social space in which people live, eat, work and play.

For more information, please visit: healthierchicago.org.

Building a Healthier Chicago

Oklahoma City’s Wellness Now Initiative

From time to time, we like to highlight community initiatives and programs that are making a difference. Wellness Now is a community-led initiative in Oklahoma City, Okla., aimed at addressing the city’s health problems. Oklahoma City ranked 50th 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 24.6 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011.

Oklahoma City struggles with a wide variety of health problems including obesity and tobacco use, both of which are contributors to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. The study reports 28.6% of the city’s population being obese and 22.8% currently smoking. As a result, the city ranks 50th in personal health indicators with a score of 15.6.

Wellness Now, started in April of 2010, is a collaboration between nearly 100 community partners including schools, health care professionals, elected officials from all levels of government, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies all dedicated to making necessary changes in order to create a healthy community. In addition to the program’s partners, Wellness Now relies heavily on people in the neighborhoods to participate in surveys and community forums.

The program is chaired by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and County Commission Chairman Ray Vaughn, and addresses the following public health priority areas:

  • Obesity
  • Mental Health
  • School Health
  • Senior Health
  • Tobacco Use Prevention
  • Obstacles to Health
  • Maternal & Child Health
  • Chronic Disease

For example, the program aims to increase access to and consumption of healthy, safe and affordable food, encourage physical activity, and promote local ordinances requiring 100% smoke-free workplaces. For more examples on specific actions for each of the above mentioned public health priority areas, check out http://www.occhd.org/community/wellnessnow/action

For more information on Wellness Now, visit http://www.occhd.org/community/wellnessnow or https://www.facebook.com/WellnessNowInitiative.

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 www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

Phoenix skyline

Spotlight on San Jose: Health and Fitness in Silicon Valley

Today’s post takes a look at the metropolitan statistical area of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara in California. The area is often called Silicon Valley thanks to being the headquarters of tech giants such as Apple, Cisco Systems, eBay, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Google, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo!.

Silicon Valley ranked 11th 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 65.2 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011, moving up from a rank of 14th and a score of 61.0 in 2010.

People take their personal health seriously in the booming metro areas south of San Francisco. The area ranked 3rd on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care.

Silicon Valley has the lowest percentage of smokers (8.8%) among the 50 metro areas included in the data report. And residents of this region are good at getting their fruits and veggies – 29.3% reported eating 5+ servings of fruits/vegetables per day. The percentage of residents with chronic health concerns is relatively low, including a metro-area low of only 4.5% residents having asthma. Almost 92% of residents have health insurance.

The area ranked 24th on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Despite its average scores on built environment indicators, the area has witnessed a propensity toward Smart Growth planning principles. Walk Score recently ranked San Jose as the 19th most walkable of the 50 largest U.S. cities.

For a complete list of the Silicon Valley’s strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the website and download the San Jose report at www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

San Jose Skyline

Spotlight on Minneapolis/St. Paul

Earlier this year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released the annual ACSM American Fitness Index® () data report. This report evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States.

For the first time, the metropolitan statistical area of Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington edged out previous leader Washington, D.C. for the top spot with a score of 77.2 (out of 100 possible points). The metro area ranked 3rd with a score of 71.7 in 2010.

Minneapolis-St. Paul took the lead thanks to greater improvements in healthy behavior measures and a reduction in the percentage of smokers. The Twin Cities ranked 2nd on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care. The area ranked 2nd on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Several factors contributed to the Twin Cities’ top ranking. The area has the highest percentage of residents who report getting physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days (85.9%) and relatively low smoking rate (15.3%). In the Twin Cities, the percentage of residents with chronic health concerns such as obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes is moderate-to-low. Another factor is that 92.9% of residents have health insurance.

While the area reduced park-related expenditures this year ($203 per capita), its percentage of parkland is still above average (16.7%), as is the percentage of recreational facilities (other than swimming pools). Farmers markets in the area also increased this year, indicating a trend in healthier eating.

In a future blog post, we’ll look at some of the programs, attractions and projects that are working to keep the Twin Cities in the top spot. For a complete list of the Twin Cities’ strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the website and download the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area report.

From the Field with Dr. Roseann Lyle

In this edition of From the Field, Advisory Board Member Roseann Lyle, PhD, FACSM, comments on what makes the ACSM American Fitness Index data report a unique measure of health and community fitness.

Dr. Lyle emphasizes the importance for communities to create an environment that makes it easier for people to make healthy choices. She also notes the interdependence of public transportation, healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, and policies that discourage smoking on community health.

Lyle also shares information about an initiative in her community, Healthy Active Tippecanoe, aimed at improving the health and quality of life for people living in Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

Lyle is a professor of public health at the Purdue University Department of Health and Kinesiology. She serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity and is a member of the Active Aging Partnership, which directs ongoing initiatives of the Blueprint for Increasing Activity among Adults over 50.