ACSM Ranks Washington DC at Top of American Fitness Index
For the third year in a row, the Washington DC metro area ranks at the top of the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness Index. The report, called “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas”, evaluates large cities to determine the healthiest areas of the United States.
The data report includes a variety of measurements, including those that reflect the areas preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease, health care access and community resources that support physical activity.
"The ACSM American Fitness Index not only measures the state of health and fitness in our nation's largest communities, but evaluates the infrastructure, community assets, policies and opportunities which encourage residents to live a healthy and fit lifestyle," said AFI Advisory Board Chair Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM. "I liken the data report and rankings to the metro areas 'getting a physical' at the doctor's office. The information learned from the physical will help each metro area identify areas of strength and weakness."
The Washington DC metro area includes not only the District of Columbia, but also neighboring counties in Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. The strengths of the city that led them to the top spot include a higher percentage of eating the recommended 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables, lower percent of the population with diabetes and heart disease, lower percentage of current smokers, and fewer who are classified as obese. The area also boasts a higher median household income with fewer unemployed and less households below the poverty level. The DC metro area also has more people who walk or bike to work, more park and recreation centers, and more farmers’ markets than other areas in the survey.
The other metro areas in the top ten for the report are (in order): Boston MA, Minneapolis-St. Paul MN, Seattle OR, Portland OR, Denver CO, Sacramento CA, San Francisco CA, Hartford CT, and Austin TX.
The bottom ten include Dallas TX, New Orleans LA, Houston TX, San Antonio TX, Indianapolis IN, Las Vegas NV, Louisville KY, Detroit MI, Memphis TN, Birmingham AL, and Oklahoma City OK.
Education is a reliable predictor of health and fitness. The report found that areas with a high percentage of residents with high school degrees or higher are more likely to be physically active and more likely to have health insurance.
Other predictors of health include poverty levels, unemployment rates, disability rates, and the rate of violent crime. These residents have a higher percentage of people who smoke, are obese, have diabetes and cardiovascular disease, or have adequate health insurance.
By providing a ranking of community health and fitness, the American Fitness Index data report aims to help communities develop and implement efforts to raise awareness of the issues and policies affecting health and fitness in their local area.
The full report can be downloaded from the ACSM website at http://www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm