Step aside nation’s capital—Minneapolis-St. Paul is the new fittest city (or cities) in America. The Twin Cities scored 77.2 out of a possible 100 points on the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual American Fitness Index (AFI), beating out the winner for the previous three years, Washington, DC.
Several factors contribute to the AFI data ranking. These include a low smoking rate, above average citizens that exercise, and lower rates of chronic health concerns, including obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Although the two top contenders both increased their health scores this year, the report said that Minneapolis-St. Paul, which was ranked third in last year’s list, beat out the competition because of improvements in healthy behaviors and a reduction in the number of smokers. The metropolitan area also benefits from a greater-than-average number of parks and recreation centers and a high number of farmers markets, which indicates a trend of healthier eating habits.
Following Minneapolis-St. Paul in the list’s top five are Washington, DC (76.8 points), Boston (69.1), Portland, OR, (67.7) and Denver (67.6). Oklahoma City took the lowest ranking with a score of 24.6 points.
“Although Minneapolis ranked first, there is room for improvement,” Walter Thompson, chair of the AFI advisory board, said in a statement. “At the same time, even the lowest-ranked areas have healthy residents and community resources supporting health and fitness.”
The ACSM received a grant of $171,880 from the nonprofit WellPoint Foundation Inc. to compile the report and establish new programs aimed at improving health and fitness in the communities that need it most. The programs will be piloted in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City (two low-ranking cities) and then rolled out to more cities each year.
“There are no quick fixes when it comes to improving the health of an entire metro area,” said Dr. Wesley Wong, national medical director of WellPoint’s affiliated health plans and a member of the AFI Advisory Board. “However, our hope is that these pilots will identify some key strategies and tactics that may also work in other cities hoping to improve the health of their residents.”