Fit or FatYou'd Be Surprised

When thinking of the fittest cities in America, what names come to mind? San Diego? Sure. Los Angeles? Good bet. Denver? Not a bad choice. New York City? You'd think so, but nope.

In a recent survey by the New York City Health Department, a whopping 53 percent of New Yorkers are either overweight or obese.

These numbers are staggering considering that New York is known for its stronghold for fitness. After all, it is the home of several fitness clubs; OK, that is an understatement. A recent search of for health clubs in New York City turned up a whopping 538 listings in six categories, 426 of those under the health clubs & gymnasiums category. That total doesn't take into account the number of clubs in southern Connecticut, northern New Jersey, Long Island and other commuter-friendly locales. In fact, in Manhattan alone, health clubs are as omnipresent as Starbuck's, Barnes & Noble and [perhaps part of the problem] McDonald's.

But despite the abundance of fitness centers [not to mention the opportunity to run, walk, bike and skate in Central Park, and dodging taxi cabs on the way there] the survey found that 35 percent of New Yorkers are at least overweight — defined as having a body mass index between 25 and 30. An additional 18 percent — or one in six city adults — were classified in the even more serious category of obese, with a body mass index of 30 or more.

The statistics were impacted by location in the city as well as income, showing perhaps that there is a bigger socio-economic undercurrent surrounding the nation's obesity epidemic.

In the Bronx, the obesity rate hit 24 percent, followed by Brooklyn (21%), Staten Island (18%), Queens (16%) and Manhattan (13%). The obesity rate among adults in the city with household incomes less than $25,000 is 22 percent. When the income is $50,000 or higher, the obesity rate drops to 14 percent.

Perhaps the most frightening news from the city that companies such as Equinox, Crunch and TSI call home, and has given birth to such trends as indoor cycling classes, striptease cardio and ruff yoga [where dogs and members do yoga together] is that just a month earlier another Health Department survey showed almost half of kindergarten through fifth grade kids in the city — 43 percent — are overweight or obese.

What this says is that in the fitness industry — and Bush administration's — battle against obesity if we can't win in a supposedly fit city like New York, perhaps we need to rethink the battle plan for the nation as a whole, because we are losing.

Don't believe me? Despite the heavy numbers coming out of this study, New York has a lower percentage of obese people — 18 percent — than the national average of 21 percent.

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