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Parks: More Than Just a Playground

Summertime is in full swing, and, for many of us, it’s the time of year we consider engaging with the great outdoors. However, as much as we might like, we can’t make every day a journey into nature … or can we? Local parks are a significant way to bring a piece of nature into our neighborhoods. And perhaps surprisingly, they may be doing a lot more good than just being a place to take the kids for a push on the swing.

It’s not a stretch of the imagination that parks help communities be more physically active. The relationship between parks and activity levels is so strong that the American Fitness Index – a ranking that evaluates the health and fitness of cities – includes several measures of parks in a community. For example, the rankings look at the total number of parks, the percent of residents living within a ten-minute walk to a park, and even local government spending on parks, a policy-level consideration. These are just a few featured indicators that are used to evaluate the cities that are ranked yearly.

Science shows that in addition to getting people to move more, parks also improve mental well-being and are essential for community connectedness—a critical aspect of social health.

One might wonder how a simple park can achieve so much! The open space or grassy areas in parks are great places to play catch with a friend or do exercises on your own. In addition, parks provide beautiful tree canopies for walking and moments of tranquility. And of course, many parks have sports fields or courts for team activities, outdoor gyms, and playground equipment for kids that can easily be repurposed for working out.

And what about mental health? The mental health community knows that “greenspace” positively impacts psychological well-being. Greenspace is an umbrella term that includes both open wilderness and urban parks and has been linked to greater mental health and well-being. Not only do parks and greenspace support physical activity, which is well known to improve mental health, but they also benefit psychological health through peaceful and relaxing sounds as well as feelings of closeness to nature. Related to this are the benefits parks and greenspace may have to social health, one driver of which is community connectedness. The physical parkland area may attract family, friends, and the larger community to come together for various social reasons.

And finally, parks may actually be saving money in health care costs. A recent UK report found that park users are healthier – saving an astonishing £111 million (US$146 million) in medical expenses for that country.

The parks in our neighborhoods are spaces that can contribute significantly to our health and well-being. While seasonal activities are a great way to get outdoors, for many, local parks are accessible nearly every day of the year. See how your city ranks on parks plus many other health and fitness indicators in the 2018 American Fitness Index.

Author

Jane C. Hurley 

7 Tips for Shopping at Your Local Farmers Market

There are nearly 9,000 farmers markets currently in operation across the United States. With offerings ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables to locally raised meats to fresh cut flowers and more, your local farmers market plays a huge role in both the accessibility of nourishing food and the stimulation of the local economy.

August 4-10, 2019  is National Farmers Market Week, and it’s the perfect time to explore your local market. To get the most out of your experience, remember these seven easy tips:

  1. Plan out your trip. Make sure you know the location of the market and its hours. Look for details about public transportation, bike racks and parking to make sure that your commute will be smooth. Additionally, many farmers markets welcome pets, but check the rules before you bring your furry friends along. Looking for a market near you? You can search the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.
  2. Pack reusable bags to carry your fresh finds. Being green is in! Use cloth or recyclable paper bags instead of plastic.
  3. Make sure you have enough cash. More and more farmers market vendors are accepting credit cards these days, but many are not. Bring plenty of cash! It’s also thoughtful to bring small bills. You don’t want to wipe out a vendor’s change when you pay for $1 worth of produce with a $20.
  4. Arrive early! The freshest produce and the most desirable items will go to those who arrive right when the market opens. On the flip side of this, you may be able to get more deals if you’re shopping right before closing time, since vendors will want to sell rather than carrying products home. But a fair warning: if you’re shopping for something specific, it may have sold out if you wait too long to get there!
  5. Browse before you buy. Many of the vendors’ booths will have the same or similar produce and products. Look at all the options and compare quality, quantity and price before making your decisions.
  6. Strike up a conversation! Ask the vendors about their farms or their process for creating the products that they sell. Not only will you have learned more about your local area, but you may make a new friend as well!
  7. Have a plan for your produce. Since farmers market vendors are selling straight from their farms or fields, they will have a shorter shelf life than the produce items that you will find at a super market. There’s nothing sadder than seeing beautiful, nourishing food go to waste because you brought home more than you could eat. You may want to cook in bulk, freeze or can produce items. Otherwise, plan to buy only what you will eat in the following few days.

Now it’s time to get out and explore your local farmers market! Enjoy the nutritious benefits while supporting growers in your hometown.

 

 

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

Anchorage

AK

Kansas City

MO

Chandler

AZ

St. Louis

MO

Gilbert

AZ

Charlotte

NC

Glendale

AZ

Durham

NC

Mesa

AZ

Greensboro

NC

Phoenix

AZ

Raleigh

NC

Scottsdale

AZ

Winston-Salem

NC

Tucson

AZ

Lincoln

NE

Anaheim

CA

Omaha

NE

Bakersfield

CA

Jersey City

NJ

Chula Vista

CA

Newark

NJ

Fremont

CA

Albuquerque

NM

Fresno

CA

Henderson

NV

Irvine

CA

Las Vegas

NV

Long Beach

CA

North Las Vegas

NV

Los Angeles

CA

Reno

NV

Oakland

CA

Buffalo

NY

Riverside

CA

New York

NY

Sacramento

CA

Cincinnati

OH

San Diego

CA

Cleveland

OH

San Francisco

CA

Columbus

OH

San Jose

CA

Toledo

OH

Santa Ana

CA

Oklahoma City

OK

Stockton

CA

Tulsa

OK

Aurora

CO

Portland

OR

Colorado Springs

CO

Philadelphia

PA

Denver

CO

Pittsburgh

PA

Washington

D.C.

Memphis

TN

Hialeah

FL

Nashville

TN

Jacksonville

FL

Arlington

TX

Miami

FL

Austin

TX

Orlando

FL

Corpus Christi

TX

St. Petersburg

FL

Dallas

TX

Tampa

FL

El Paso

TX

Atlanta

GA

Fort Worth

TX

Honolulu

HI

Garland

TX

Boise

ID

Houston

TX

Chicago

IL

Irving

TX

Fort Wayne

IN

Laredo

TX

Indianapolis

IN

Lubbock

TX

Wichita

KS

Plano

TX

Lexington

KY

San Antonio

TX

Louisville

KY

Arlington

VA

Baton Rouge

LA

Chesapeake

VA

New Orleans

LA

Norfolk

VA

Boston

MA

Richmond

VA

Baltimore

MD

Virginia Beach

VA

Detroit

MI

Seattle

WA

Minneapolis

MN

Madison

WI

St. Paul

MN

Milwaukee

WI

Good Sleep: An Indicator of Good Health

Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is so important for good health that it was added as an indicator to the American Fitness Index last year. The 2018 American Fitness Index Rankings will also list “percent getting seven or more hours of sleep per day” as one of the personal health indicators that are used to calculate the final rankings.

The source of data for this indicator is the CDC’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) national telephone survey. As you might imagine, the telephone survey methods used are very rigorous to make sure the results are as accurate as possible. Consequently, many medical and public health researchers rely heavily on the BRFSS for their work. Learn more about the BRFSS national survey on the CDC website.

A question on the national survey asks, “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period?” As an answer, responders give a number – like six and a half or eight. Generally, experts believe at least seven hours of sleep per day are needed to stay healthy, so this is the measure used for the indicator.

In calculating the Fitness Index scores, each indicator is given a weight from one to three to match how important each indicator is for fitness. Our national experts agreed that getting a good night’s rest was so important that it should be given the highest level of weight (three).

Why is sleep so important to health? 

Sleep influences processes in the brain that allow it to remember and learn new information. It can also influence brain linkages that increase the ability to concentrate and feel positive emotions. People who get more rest have more energy for tackling difficult tasks. Getting enough sleep also helps to control weight by increasing the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates.

On the other hand, having too little or poor quality sleep turns on hormones that affect appetite and promote carbohydrate storage that leads to weight gain. Sleep can also affect heart health: not getting enough sleep can increase the risk for heart disease by increasing high blood pressure, stress hormones and irregular heartbeats.

What is the solution?

Getting at least seven hours of sleep a day is possible by practicing what sleep experts call good sleep hygiene. These are different practices and habits that promote sleep quality and daytime alertness. Here are a few hints:

  • Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes so you are tired at night.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Exercise to increase your physical energy and allow your tired muscles to relax for a good night’s rest.
  • Avoid watching TV in the bedroom, as the artificial light can disrupt sleep rhythms.
  • Avoid eating foods that may disrupt your digestive system right before bedtime.

Check out the Fitness Rankings to see how well people in your city are sleeping!

 

Authors

Barbara E. Ainsworth, Ph.D., M.P.H., FACSM, FNAK

Terrell W. Zollinger, Dr.P.H, MSPH

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!

10th Annual American Fitness Index Reveals Minneapolis-St. Paul as the Newest “Fit City”

Half of metro areas saw scores improve

Indianapolis (May 16) – The twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul edged Washington, D.C. in the 10th annual American Fitness Index (Fitness Index) rankings released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc.  The nation’s capital held the top spot for the past three years and improved its score in 2017, but Minneapolis-St. Paul still finished on top despite the challenges of being a northern state with hard winters. (Link – View the rankings and individual metro data here or at the chart below.)

San Francisco-Oakland finished third this year, Seattle-Tacoma fourth, San Jose fifth, Boston sixth and Denver seventh. The top seven cities in the 2017 Fitness Index are between 4-13 percentage points ahead of the rest of the pack, principally related to lower rates of smoking and cardiovascular disease deaths and higher reported physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and per capita park expenditures in their communities.

Nationally, there were some remarkable positive shifts during the last year:

  • 16.0% increase in the percent who met the recommendations for aerobic and strength in the last 30 days
  • 10.5% drop in the percent with diagnosed angina or coronary heart disease
  • 3.9% increase in walkability scores
  • 3.9% increase in the percent who live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • 3.7% increase in the total park expenditures per capita
  • 4.0% increase in the number of recreation centers per 20,000 residents

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with the greatest improvement in their rankings since last year included San Jose, Los Angeles, Miami, Buffalo, Orlando and Las Vegas.

The 2017 Fitness Index rankings also revealed some shortcomings over the past year:

  • 11.7% increase in the rate of diabetes deaths
  • 6.3% reduction in the percent of residents biking or walking to work
  • 6.2% decrease in the percent of individuals eating the recommended number of servings of fruit
  • 4.6% reduction in the number of tennis courts per 10,000 residents

MSAs experiencing the largest drop in their rankings this year included Virginia Beach, Richmond, Providence, Philadelphia, Kansas City, New Orleans and Charlotte.

Against the backdrop of its 10th anniversary,  the Fitness Index offers some insightful long-term trends:

    • Smoking rates have declined (18.7% to 16.7%)
    • Drops in the death rates for diabetes (24.0/100,000 to 18.7/100,000) and cardiovascular diseases (223.0/100,000 to 174.6/100,000)
    • The number of farmers’ markets have increased (11.0/1,000,000 to 19.8/1,000,000)
    • Increases in the percent of residents using public transportation to work doubled (2.1% to 4.4%)
    • Residents biking or walking to work doubled (1.3% to 2.9%)
    • Total park expenditures per capita increased ($100 to $106)

Conversely, the 10-year comparison of Fitness Index indicators uncovered some challenges:

    • The percent categorized as obese increased (25.4% to 28.7%)
    • The percent self-reporting as having excellent or very good health declined (55.6% to 52.1%)
    • The percent diagnosed with asthma increased (8.2% to 9.0%), as did the percent with diabetes (8.0% to 10.7%)

The ACSM American Fitness Index provides evidence-based data and a number of valuable resources that help cities promote healthy lifestyles.  To aid communities in promoting physical activity and enhancing quality of life, ACSM and Anthem Foundation developed and released  the Community Action Guide offering an overview of the critical decisions and factors related to effective community action:  https://americanfitnessindex.org/community-action-guide/

“Our ultimate goal is to offer individuals, families and communities trusted resources that can help them assess, plan and implement policies that promote positive health outcomes,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FASCM, who chairs the Fitness Index Advisory Board and is president-elect of ACSM. “Ten years of evidence-based data offers these cities and their citizens valuable insights into how to substantively improve elements leading to healthier lives and reduced health care costs.”

“As the American Fit Index celebrates its 10th year, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the efforts of communities and their leaders who have effectively used the data to make measurable changes that are helping improve the health and wellness of their residents,” said Craig Samitt, MD, chief clinical officer, Anthem, Inc. “While the improvements we are seeing are worth celebrating, we know there is still more that can be done. We are proud of our foundation’s work and collaboration with ACSM to offer science and evidence for communities to create a culture of healthy lifestyles.”

At the community level, the Fitness Index has been used as an assessment and evaluation tool to educate community leaders on the importance of key indicators of physical activity. Leaders can then focus on policy, systems and environmental change strategies that are evidence-based and create sustainability for the community.

The 2017 ACSM American Fitness Index rankings are as follows:

2017 Rank 2016 Rank Metropolitan Area 2017 Score
1 2 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 80.2
2 1 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 79.2
3 5 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 73.3
4 6 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 72.2
5 11 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 71.6
6 7 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 71.5*
7 3 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 71.5*
8 4 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 67.7
9 8 Salt Lake City, UT 66.3
10 10 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 65.6
11 13 Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA 63.3
12 15.5± Austin-Round Rock, TX 61.2
13 9 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 60.5
14 15.5± Raleigh, NC 58.6
15 12 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 58.4
16 29 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 55.7
17 14 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 55.0
18 22 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 54.5
19 26 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 54.1
20 17 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 54.0
21 20 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 53.9*
22 23 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 53.9*
23 32 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 52.6
24 35 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 52.5
25 43 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 52.3
26 28 Saint Louis, MO-IL 51.6
27 19 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 50.7
28 25 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 50.0
29 27 Pittsburgh, PA 49.0
30 18 Richmond, VA 48.9
31 21 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 48.4*
32 24 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 48.4*
33 34 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 47.3*
34 41 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 47.3*
35 31 Jacksonville, FL 46.0
36 30 Kansas City, MO-KS 45.0
37 36 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 44.5
38 37 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 43.2
39 33 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 41.7
40 40 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 39.0
41 38 Columbus, OH 37.4
42 46 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 36.8
43 42 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 35.8
44 45 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 34.7
45 47 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 33.2
46 44 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 31.2
47 39 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 30.3
48 50 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 29.9
49 49 Oklahoma City, OK 29.4
50 48 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 23.1

±There was a tie in the ranking between the MSAs.

*The scores shown have been rounded to the nearest tenth of a point resulting in some apparent ties; however, the rankings are based on the full calculated score values that were not equal in those cases.

Methodology

ACSM, the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts developed the methodology to analyze U.S. Census data; data from 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.

ACSM is a global leader in promoting the benefits of physical activity and advocates for legislation that helps government and the health community make it a priority. ACSM encourages Congress to support continued funding of parks, trails and safe routes to school, as well as the need for all Americans to meet the prescribed physical activity recommendations included in the National Physical Activity Guidelines, and the need for the guidelines to be regularly updated every 10 years.

The data is made up of personal health, community and environmental indicators. Visit the online newsroom at www.AmericanFitnessIndex.org for a complete list of the data components.

About the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 50,000 international, national and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.   More details can be found at http://www.acsm.org/

About Anthem Foundation

The Anthem Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of Anthem, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Anthem, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program which provides a 50 percent match of associates’ pledges, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs. To learn more about the Anthem Foundation, please visit http://www.anthem.foundation and its blog at http://anthemfoundation.tumblr.com.

Infographic: 2017 ACSM American Fitness Index

According to the 2017 ACSM American Fitness Index, the top 10 fittest cities in the U.S. are:

  1. Minneapolis, MN
  2. Washington, DC
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. San Jose, CA
  6. Boston, MA
  7. Denver, CO
  8. Portland, OR
  9. Salt Lake City, UT
  10. San Diego, CA

Share this infographic and the Fitness Index with your local leaders to start a conversation on making your city a healthier place for all residents.

Washington, D.C., Claims Top Ranking on Annual Fit City Index

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), with support from the WellPoint Foundation, unveiled its seventh annual American Fitness Index® () data report during the organization’s annual meeting. The 2014 data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,” reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, and community resources and policies that support physical activity.

Capturing the top ranking is the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, with a score of 77.3 (out of 100 possible points).

The 2014 edition of the data report uses revised methods from the first six full-edition reports released from 2008 to 2013. New variables, including each community’s Walk Score ranking,have been added or modified and some variables have been removed to improve and enhance the 2014 data report. Consequently, comparisons of scores, sub-scores and rankings for 2014 should not be made with earlier reports. Benchmarks for each data indicator, which were added in 2013, highlight specific areas for improvement.

“Health advocates and community leaders have come to expect the arrival of the American Fitness Index as an annual check-up regarding their community’s health and fitness levels,” said Walter Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, chair of the Advisory Board. “The data report is a snapshot of the state of health in the community and an evaluation of the infrastructure, community assets and policies that encourage healthy and fit lifestyles. These measures directly affect quality of life in our country’s urban areas.”

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 and 2) community and environmental indicators.

Targeted Technical Assistance at the Local Level 

In 2013, ACSM received a $157,782 grant from the WellPoint Foundation to present this year’s data report and to work with community organizations in Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Miami throughout 2014 to initiate locally driven health improvement efforts. By translating key data from the report, ACSM will provide technical assistance to these priority metro areas, which were selected based on local opportunity and interest.

A previous grant from the WellPoint Foundation in 2011 enabled ACSM to pilot technical assistance efforts in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City. This led to initiatives such as “Top 10 by 2025,” a vision to make Indianapolis one of the top 10 healthiest communities in the U.S. by 2025, and Wellness Now, a plan to improve the health and wellness of Oklahoma City and County.

“As the founding sponsor, WellPoint Foundation is proud to provide continuing support for the ACSM American Fitness Index and its healthy lifestyle measurement and improvement endeavors,” said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the WellPoint Foundation. “The technical assistance program identifies actionable areas with the best evidence for improving health, focuses on doing the most good for the most residents – with a high priority on underserved populations – and works to make a community-wide impact quickly.”

The technical assistance project is an integral part of an overall evaluation plan for to determine what key health indicators for communities can be effectively modified. WellPoint Foundation’s support for ACSM, the report and technical assistance program is part of its continuing commitment to address health disparities and improve public health across the country.

Through its State Health Index – a state-by-state compilation of public health measures – and Healthy Generations program, the WellPoint Foundation works to identify the issues most in need of attention and then directs its charitable support and volunteer efforts toward improving health in those areas. Reducing cardiac mortality rates, promoting active lifestyles and addressing the long-term health threats posed by childhood obesity are major focus areas of the foundation.

The metropolitan rankings in the 2014 report are:

Rank Metropolitan Area 2014 Score
 1. Washington, D.C. 77.3
2. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. 73.5
3. Portland, Ore. 72.1
4. Denver, Colo. 71.7
5. San Francisco, Calif. 71.0
6. San Jose, Calif. 69.4
7. Seattle, Wash. 69.3
8. San Diego, Calif. 69.2
9. Boston, Mass. 69.1
10. Sacramento, Calif. 66.9
11. Salt Lake City, Utah 65.7
12. Hartford, Conn. 63.8
13. Raleigh, N.C. 61.5
14. Austin, Texas 60.6
15. Chicago, Ill. 56.6
16. Atlanta, Ga. 56.0
17. Pittsburgh, Pa. 54.8
18. Cincinnati, Ohio 54.5
19. Los Angeles, Calif. 53.4
20. Philadelphia, Pa. 52.9
21. Richmond, Va. 52.3
22. Virginia Beach, Va. 52.0
23. Providence, R.I. 51.6
24. New York, N.Y. 51.5
25. Baltimore, Md. 50.8
26. Miami, Fla. 49.0
27. Charlotte, N.C. 48.1
28. Riverside, Calif. 47.5
29. Buffalo, N.Y. 47.2
30. Jacksonville, Fla. 46.6
31. Tampa, Fla. 46.0
32. Milwaukee, Wis. 45.7
33. Cleveland, Ohio 45.4
34. Kansas City, Mo. 45.1
 35. Houston, Texas 44.0*
36. Phoenix, Ariz. 44.0*
37. Las Vegas, Nev. 43.7
38. Dallas, Texas 42.6
39. New Orleans, La. 42.4
40. Columbus, Ohio 41.3*
41. St. Louis, Mo. 41.3*
42. Orlando, Fla. 40.8
43. Detroit, Mich. 37.3
44. Birmingham, Ala. 35.9
45. San Antonio, Texas 35.6
46. Nashville, Tenn. 32.5
47. Indianapolis, Ind. 32.3
48. Oklahoma City, Okla. 31.6
49. Louisville, Ky. 25.7
50. Memphis, Tenn. 24.8

*Scores have been rounded to the nearest tenth of a point, resulting in some apparent ties; however, the rankings are based on the full, calculated scores that were not equal in those cases.

About the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.  More than 50,000 international, national and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

About the WellPoint Foundation

The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program which provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit www.wellpointfoundation.org and its blog at http://wellpointfoundation.tumblr.com.

 

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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.

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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