Do you live in Arlington, Va.? If so, it’s likely you’re living a pretty darn healthy lifestyle, according to the 11th annual American Fitness Index, which has named the Washington, D.C. suburb America’s fittest city.
In the past, the rankings, conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation, rated 50 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. This year, however, the list expanded to the country’s 100 largest cities, using 33 health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure indicators for its rankings.
That means regions that were previously accounted for together, like Arlington and Washington, D.C,. were judged on their own merits this time around. While Arlington took the top spot by just half a point, Minneapolis followed closely behind. Washington, D.C. was third, and Madison, Wis., and Portland, Ore., rounded out the top five. At the bottom of the barrel? Toledo, Ohio; Detroit; Louisville, Ky., Indianapolis; and Oklahoma City.
It’s important to note that this index ranks community fitness, not individuals having strong personal fitness. That means the higher-ranking cities have more strengths and resources to support healthy living and fewer challenges that hinder it than the lower-ranking ones.
The Top 50 Fittest Cities
This year’s winner, Arlington, boasts the lowest smoking rate and highest reports of very good or excellent health when compared to the other 99 cities. It also ranked in the top 10 cities for 11 other indicators, including residents that live within a 10-minute walk to a park and number of farmers markets, dog parks and tennis courts. The small city also boasts 49 miles of paved multi-use trails, an indication that when walkability and bikeability are improved, residents take note and use them.
The 50 largest cities falling into the less fit, 51-to-100 spots include:
- Garland, TX
- New York, NY
- Hialeah, FL
- Irving, TX
- Richmond, VA
- Fort Worth, TX
- St. Louis, MO
- Glendale, AZ
- Charlotte, NC
- Houston, TX
- Scottsdale, AZ
- Riverside, CA
- Las Vegas, NV
- Jacksonville, FL
- Nashville, TN
- Bakersfield, CA
- Baton Rouge, LA
- San Antonio, TX
- Jersey City, NJ
- Lexington, KY
- Greensboro, NC
- Phoenix, AZ
- Henderson, NV
- Kansas City, MO
- Chesapeake, VA
- Chandler, AZ
- Corpus Christi, TX
- Baltimore, MD
- Columbus, OH
- El Paso, TX
- Mesa, AZ
- Philadelphia, PA
- Arlington, TX
- Fort Wayne, IN
- Stockton, CA
- Newark, NJ
- Lubbock, TX
- Memphis, TN
- Laredo, TX
- Winston-Salem, NC
- Tulsa, OK
- North Las Vegas, NV
- Gilbert, AZ
- Fresno, CA
- Wichita, KS
- Toledo, OH
- Detroit, MI
- Louisville, KY
- Indianapolis, IN
- Oklahoma City, OK
Overall, there were positive trends throughout the country in the last year, including:
- 77.5 percent of adults in all 100 cities were previously active in the previous month
- 65.4 percent of residents in all cities got at least 7 hours of sleep each night
But there’s still improvements to be had:
- Only 30 percent of adults reported eating at least two servings of fruit each day; only 18 percent ate three or more vegetable servings a day
- 35 percent of residents in all cities reported their mental health wasn’t good in the last 30 days
Rankings are based on factors such as farmers markets per capita, park units per capita, level of state requirement for physical education classes, death rate for diabetes, the percentage of residents who are obese and percentage of residents currently smoking.
5 Ways to Get Fit No Matter Where You Live
Did your area rank low on the index? While access to certain amenities, like parks and a variety of gyms, might not be as prevalent, you can still get fit and feel great no matter where you live.
1. Build fitness into your day. I love using exercise hacks to add more physical activity into my routine.
2. Work out on a budget. Getting in shape doesn’t have to mean shelling out big bucks. Aside from outdoor workouts like walking, running or hiking, explore community fitness centers, quality exercise videos and even YouTube workouts.
3. Make every minute count. Forget spending hours exercising. High intensity interval training, or HIIT, workouts are designed for to give it all you’ve got for a few short bouts followed by a brief recovery period. These workouts help you burn fat even after you’ve finished exercising, revving your metabolism going in high gear. Try this free 12-minute Burstfit video. You can squeeze it in during a busy day.
4. Incorporate small changes. You don’t need to overhaul your entire lifestyle in a day. Choose one aspect of your life that you’d like to work on each week, like packing more lunches from home or drinking more water, and give yourself time to adjust to the changes. Eventually, all those new habits will lead to an overall happier, healthier you.
5. Meet friends for workouts. Instead of catching up over dinner and drinks, why not meet up for a yoga class or go on a hike? Not only will you probably save money, but you’ll enjoy quality time and a workout.
Final Thoughts on Fittest Cities
- The American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation teamed up to rank the fitness levels of the top 100 largest cities in America in its American Fitness Index.
- To create the index that measures community health, analysts look at 33 health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure data in the 100 largest cities in the U.S.
- Higher-ranking cities invest more resources into healthy living, including things like walking paths and bike lanes.
- This year, Arlington, Va., took the No. 1 spot on the list.
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