The ‘Fittest City’ In America Is Again Arlington, Virginia

(Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus.) For the third consecutive year, Arlington, Virginia, ranked as the fittest city by the American College of Sports Medicine and Anthem Foundation, which put out a Fittest City list ranking 100 cities by 33 factors.

Arlington, Virginia, is the fittest city on a ranking of 100 cities while Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is the least fit, according to the annual Fittest City ranking by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Anthem Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of Anthem Inc.

The list was based on the ACSM/Anthem Fitness Index, which evaluated the 100 largest cities in the country based on 33 health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure.

The evolving Fitness Index, now in its 13th year, allows leaders to focus on policy, systems and environmental change strategies that are based on evidence and create sustainability for their communities.

“These annual rankings offer cities meaningful guidance on health habits within their communities and reveal how well those communities encourage healthy lifestyles among their residents,” said Gail K. Boudreaux, president and CEO of Anthem Inc., said in a media release. “We’re pleased to provide municipalities with the data-rich information and resources they need to address social determinants of health and to motivate action.”

Arlington’s balance of healthy behaviors and community infrastructure earned it the top spot on the list. Arlington ranked in the top 10 cities for 19 of the 33 indicators in the ACSM/Anthem Fitness Index. Two indicators ranked No. 1, including lowest rate of adults with obesity and highest rate of residents meeting aerobic and strength activity guidelines. Arlington has earned the fittest city title three consecutive years.

The 10 fittest cities on the list are:

No. 1. Arlington, Virginia

No. 2. Seattle

No. 3. Minneapolis

No. 4. Madison, Wisconsin

No. 5. San Francisco

No. 6. Washington, D.C.

No. 7. Irvine, California

No. 8. Denver, Colorado

No. 9. Boise, Idaho

No. 10. Boston

The 10 least fit cities on the list are:

No. 90. Fort Worth, Texas

No. 91. Wichita, Kansas

No. 92. Fort Wayne, Indiana

No. 93. Arlington, Texas

No. 94. Indianapolis, Indiana

No. 95. Detroit, Michigan

No. 96. Memphis, Tennessee

No. 97. Tulsa, Oklahoma

No. 98. North Las Vegas, Nevada

No. 99. Bakersfield, California

No. 100. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the critical role cities play in ensuring their residents have opportunities and infrastructure to lead physically active, healthy lifestyles.

“We know from research that physical activity can build a healthier immune system and overall wellness, which help minimize harmful effects of illness and disease,” said Barbara Ainsworth, Ph.D., chair of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board. “This pandemic shows the need to have local parks, trails and connected sidewalks in all neighborhoods that allow people to exercise safely. City leaders and planners need to act boldly and decisively to enact policies and funding to promote physical activity, better health and stronger communities.” 

Ainsworth also noted that societal health challenges existed long before the pandemic, and the Fitness Index has provided the data needed to address them for more than a decade.

“It should be of national concern that only one in four Americans meets national physical activity guidelines and more than 30 million have diagnosed heart disease,” Ainsworth said. “Sedentary lifestyles across the United States cost more than $117 billion annually in sick care services, adversely impacting both our nation’s health and economic well-being. This challenge has local solutions, and the Fitness Index is a prescription for communities to bring about positive change.”

Additional findings from the 2020 Fitness Index rankings include:

  • Across all 100 cities, indicators improved for the rate of residents exercising, fewer people smoking, parks within a 10-minute walk and Bike Score, as compared to 2019.
  • Buffalo, New York; Toledo, Ohio: and Anchorage, Alaska, rankings improved by at least 15 spots from 2019.
  • Only 22 percent of adults in the 100 largest cities met the guidelines for both aerobic and strength activities. Adults need 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or roughly 22 minutes per day, for substantial health benefits.
  • Across all 100 cities, only 4.5 percent of residents walk or bike to work and only 7 percent use public transportation. Boston.; Jersey City, New Jersey; New York; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C., reported the largest percentages.
  • Neighborhoods connected by sidewalks, protected bike lanes, lighting and benches reduce pedestrian fatalities. Safety features can impact how often residents choose to walk or bike. The 10 deadliest cities for pedestrians (four are in Florida) averaged 5.5 pedestrian deaths per 100 residents, while the 10 safest cities averaged 0.6 fatalities per 100,000 residents.
  • Cities that experience weather extremes made it into the top 10 – Minneapolis, Minnesota (No. 3); Madison, Wisconsin (No.  4); and Denver, Colorado (No. 8), showing that local leaders can make it easier for residents to stay physically active year-round.

The full rankings and scores, a summary report, city comparison tool and other insights are available on the American Fitness Index website.

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