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Today Show Looks to ACSM for America’s Healthiest City

Posted February 3rd, 2014

To help kick off 2014, The Today Show looked at where in America you should go if you want to be “healthy, wealthy and wise”.

In their search for evaluating America’s healthiest cities, the show’s producers examined a number sources and ultimately settled on the ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI). For the past three years Minneapolis/St. Paul has earned AFI’s highest ranking.

ACSM and the AFI Advisory Board are honored to be considered as the best measure of a “healthiest” city. It’s a testament to the research and planning that went into creating the Index and the work to update the Index each year since.

For the segment on The Today Show, journalist Craig Melvin spoke with runners and bikers using the city’s expansive trails and paths, highlighted Minneapolis’ robust park and recreation system, and featured a healthy food program called Urban Roots.

The segment also included a portion of an interview with AFI Advisory Board Chair Dr. Walt Thompson.

Check out the segment and read the story on The Today Show website. The 2014 AFI report will be released in May ahead of the ACSM Annual Meeting.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Minneapolis-St. Paul tops Fit List for Third Straight Year

Posted May 29th, 2013

For the third consecutive year, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the healthiest, fittest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual American Fitness Index™ (AFI).

Established six years ago with support from the WellPoint Foundation, the AFI data report evaluates the infrastructure, community assets and policies that encourage healthy and fit lifestyles in the 50 most populous metro areas in the United States.

The 2013 AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,” reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access and community resources and policies that support physical activity. Included in the report’s latest edition are benchmarks for each data indicator to highlight areas that need improvement.

Check out the AFI Quick View to see how each metro area ranked. A full copy of the 2013 AFI data report is available at http://americanfitnessindex.org/report.

“We have issued the American Fitness Index each year since 2008 to help health advocates and community leader advocates improve the quality of life in their hometowns,” said Walter Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, chair of the AFI Advisory Board. “As urban areas attract more and more residents, it’s imperative for cities to create a built environment, fund amenities and form policies that get residents active and encourage healthy lifestyles.”

To assist with measurement and to provide a baseline measure of health and fitness status, ACSM worked with the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts on the methodology of the AFI data report. Researchers analyzed the data gleaned from U.S. Census data, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), The Trust for the Public Land City Park Facts and other existing research data in order to give a scientific, accurate snapshot of the health and fitness status at a metropolitan level.

The data examined fall into two categories:

  1. Personal health indicators
  2. Community and environmental indicators

Minneapolis-St. Paul Tops Fit List for Second Straight Year

Posted May 21st, 2012

For the second consecutive year, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the healthiest, fittest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual American Fitness Index™ (AFI).

Made possible by a grant from the WellPoint Foundation, the 2012 AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,” evaluated the most populous city areas to identify the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington achieved a high score of 76.4 (out of 100 possible points) to capture the top ranking.

Check out the AFI Quick View to see how each metro area ranked. A full copy of the 2012 AFI data report is available at http://americanfitnessindex.org/report.

The AFI data report reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access and community resources and policies that support physical activity. New to the 2012 AFI data report is a benchmark for each data indicator to help identify areas that need improvement.

“Although many people will gravitate to which cities are fit or less fit, it’s important to remember that there is room for improvement in every community,” added Thompson. “It’s also worth noting that even the lowest-ranked areas have healthy residents and community resources that support health and fitness.”

To assist with measurement and to provide a baseline measure of health and fitness status, ACSM worked with the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts on the methodology of the AFI data report. Researchers analyzed the data gleaned from U.S. Census data, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), The Trust for the Public Land City Park Facts and other existing research data in order to give a scientific, accurate snapshot of the health and fitness status at a metropolitan level.

The data examined fall into two categories:

  1. Personal health indicators
  2. Community and environmental indicators

Building a Healthier Chicago!

Posted March 5th, 2012

ACSM has been proud to work with Assistant Surgeon General Dr. James M. Galloway in the early years of the ACSM American Fitness Index. Dr. Galloway spoke about the importance of the AFI data report to the Building a Healthier Chicago! initiative upon the launch of the AFI program in 2008.

Building a Healthier Chicago! is a collaborative endeavor between the American Medical Association, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and the Office of the Regional Health Administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Region V.

The goal of the campaign is to improve the health of Chicago’s residents and employees through the integration of existing and new public health, medicine and community health activities.

The campaign involves several programs including:

  • F.I.T. City: A restaurant initiative to develop and promote F.I.T. (Fresh, Innovative, and Tasty) menu options through partnerships with restaurants, chefs, culinary schools, health advocates, and community groups.
  • Focus Community: Specific program to help the Austin community, located on Chicago’s west side, gain access to healthy foods. Austin is the most densely populated community within Chicago, but has no chain supermarket thus residents have limited access to healthy foods. Parts of Austin have even been designated as “food deserts.”
  • Building a Healthier Chicago’s Agribusiness: A project aimed to set up markets in food deserts to give residents access to affordable fruits and vegetables. The program worked with the DePaul University Graduate School of Business to create a simple market concept- sell food for a dollar each – two apples for a dollar, four potatoes for a dollar, etc.
  • “Federal Employees: Active and Healthy…Working Well”: A worksite wellness program for federal employees aimed to improve the culture of the city’s federal workplaces to encourage employee wellness through healthy eating, and various physical activities.

Chicago ranked 28th in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 48.9 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011.

The metro area ranked 34th on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care, and 21st on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Pertinent to Building a Healthier Chicago, only 22.5% of the population reports eating 5+ servings of fruits/vegetables a day. However, the area has an above average number of farmers’ markets (17.7/1,000,000).

Building a Healthier Chicago! operates under the Social Ecological Model, which acknowledges how environmental factors impact the decisions people make. This model combines these multiple perspectives and promotes a healthy environment/lifestyle suited for the social space in which people live, eat, work and play.

For more information, please visit: healthierchicago.org.

Building a Healthier Chicago

Let’s Move! Celebrates Two Year Anniversary

Posted February 27th, 2012

Let’s Move! – a national campaign to fight childhood obesity – celebrated its second anniversary this month. The campaign launched in February of 2010 with the goal to reduce the childhood obesity rate to just five percent by 2030.

The initial concern lies with estimates suggesting 17 percent of American teens and children are overweight and obese – triple the rate of a generation ago, according to the CDC.

Led by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, Let’s Move! aggressively rolled out several programs, with many recommendations still underway, to address the ongoing, national obesity crisis faced by many of the cities highlighted in the ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report. The average obesity rate among the metro areas included in the report is 25.9 percent (with a range from 18.1 percent to 34.3 percent).

“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake,” said Mrs. Obama at the Let’s Move! launch.Times have changed and thus, so have our youths’ lifestyles. Natural progression in transportation, increased snacking, education/extracurricular budget cuts, exploding portion sizes, and

entertainment media all play a role in the shocking reality of youth obesity.

However, recent reports show the campaign is gaining traction as obesity rates have flattened among youth, and many students and parents are more aware of recommended dietary and fitness guidelines.

The campaign involves several initiatives to educate America’s youth and their parents on healthy lifestyle choices. Some of these initiatives include:

  • MyPlate: The most recent “upgrade” to the food pyramid which places emphasis on portion size by providing a visual reminder for preparing and eating meals.
  • Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act: Law signed by President Obama holding schools to a higher and healthier standard for school lunches.
  • The Partnership for a Healthier America: Partnership to aid in encouraging, tracking and communicating commitments to healthier lifestyles with a variety of companion organizations.

It’s also important to note, as much of the data in the AFI report confirms, there is often a direct correlation between obesity and many other diseases including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma. Many of the campaign’s suggested lifestyle recommendations will play a hand in addressing these issues and many more.

This comprehensive initiative requires the attention and dedication of many parties including parents, elected government officials, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based o

rganizations, and more.

For more information on the campaign, visit Let’s Move!

Oklahoma City’s Wellness Now Initiative

Posted February 16th, 2012

From time to time, we like to highlight community initiatives and programs that are making a difference. Wellness Now is a community-led initiative in Oklahoma City, Okla., aimed at addressing the city’s health problems. Oklahoma City ranked 50th in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 24.6 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011.

Oklahoma City struggles with a wide variety of health problems including obesity and tobacco use, both of which are contributors to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. The study reports 28.6% of the city’s population being obese and 22.8% currently smoking. As a result, the city ranks 50th in personal health indicators with a score of 15.6.

Wellness Now, started in April of 2010, is a collaboration between nearly 100 community partners including schools, health care professionals, elected officials from all levels of government, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies all dedicated to making necessary changes in order to create a healthy community. In addition to the program’s partners, Wellness Now relies heavily on people in the neighborhoods to participate in surveys and community forums.

The program is chaired by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and County Commission Chairman Ray Vaughn, and addresses the following public health priority areas:

  • Obesity
  • Mental Health
  • School Health
  • Senior Health
  • Tobacco Use Prevention
  • Obstacles to Health
  • Maternal & Child Health
  • Chronic Disease

For example, the program aims to increase access to and consumption of healthy, safe and affordable food, encourage physical activity, and promote local ordinances requiring 100% smoke-free workplaces. For more examples on specific actions for each of the above mentioned public health priority areas, check out http://www.occhd.org/community/wellnessnow/action

For more information on Wellness Now, visit http://www.occhd.org/community/wellnessnow or https://www.facebook.com/WellnessNowInitiative.

Spotlight on Phoenix: Health and Fitness in the Valley of the Sun

Posted February 10th, 2012

Today’s post takes a look at the metropolitan statistical area of Phoenix, Arizona; also known as the “Valley of the Sun”. Phoenix is the largest state capital in the country and the metropolitan area is the 14th largest by population. The city is divided into 15 urban villages each with their own unique character.

Phoenix ranked 32nd in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 45.3 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011, moving slightly down from a score of 47.4 in 2010, however the rank remains the same.

The study reports 82.6% of the population participated in physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days; 8% above the U.S. average. Accordingly, the city has a lower percent with angina or coronary heart disease and lower death rates for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Among the 50 largest metro areas, Phoenix has the highest percentage of residents with asthma (11.9%). Overall, the Valley of the Sun ranked 19th in personal health indicators.

However, the metro area ranked 44th in community/environmental indicators. The city boasts a decent amount of parkland as percent of city area, but falls behind in number of recreational facilities such as ball diamonds, playgrounds, golf courses, tennis courts, etc. In Arizona, the state only requires physical education classes at one level (among elementary, middle and high school). There are only 71.0 primary health care providers per 100,000 residents, way below the MSA average of 93.2.

The city struggles with poverty and unemployment, but has made strides since 2010. Due in part to high heat conditions, the city reports a lower percent using public transportation and biking to work.

For a complete list of Phoenix’s strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the AFI website and download the Phoenix report at www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

Phoenix skyline

Spotlight on Kansas City: Health and Fitness in the City of Fountains

Posted February 1st, 2012

Today’s post takes a look at the metropolitan statistical area of Kansas City, Mo. Notably, the city has more parks, golf courses, famer’s markets and ball diamonds per capita than any other state. To be exact, there are 214 urban parks, 152 ball diamonds, 10 community centers, 105 tennis courts, five golf courses, and 30 pools occupying the city’s 318 square miles.

Kansas City ranked 22nd in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 51.5 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011, moving up from a rank of 29th and a score of 47.9 in 2010.

The area ranked 25th on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, physical education requirements and primary health care providers. The study reports 59.3% of the population is in excellent or good health. However, Kansas City continues to struggle with the number of smokers as nearly 20% are currently smoking, down just 1% from 2010 and still above the country’s average.

Despite the larger number of farmer’s markets per capita and City Market, one of the largest and most stable public farmers’ markets in the Midwest, only 18.7% of residents report eating 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

The percentage of residents with chronic health concerns is relatively low and the community still places a strong commitment to physical education classes for the city’s youth. With an abundance of fitness facilities in the Kansas City area, it is only a matter of time before the city can improve it’s ranking.

For a complete list of the Kansas City’s strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the AFI website and download the Kansas City report at www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

Kansas City Skyline

Spotlight on Richmond, Va: Health and Fitness in One of America’s Oldest Cities

Posted December 29th, 2011

Today’s post takes a look at Richmond, the third largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in Virginia. The city of Richmond and its surrounding areas include a population of 1.2 million residents, six Fortune 500 companies, and countless historical monuments and museums.

Richmond took the number 12 spot in the 2011 AFI data report with a total of 64.2 points (out of a possible 100). This ranking was down one spot from 2010. With an above average number of residents getting exercise in the last 30 days, a 5% increase in the number of residents eating five or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day, and a strong percentage (66%) reporting to be in excellent or very good health, it would appear that Richmond is making the right moves towards a healthier community.

On the other hand, Richmond experienced a nearly 4% increase in the number of reported smokers, an increase in residents categorized as obese, and an increase in the deaths per 100,000 from cardiovascular disease. Even with all that, the increase in healthy habits mentioned above, and the 6% increase in residents who are getting moderate physical activity, Richmond moved up a spot to 8th in personal health indicators related to chronic health problems and health care.

While Richmond scores in the top 10 on personal health indicators, it is in the top 20 according to the community and environment indicators. Almost every indicator used in this category stayed the same from the 2010 to 2011 AFI data report with the exception of the number of farmer’s markets. This number nearly doubled from 4.9 per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 9.7 in this year’s report, indicating an increased propensity towards healthier eating. Richmond has the most tennis courts per 10,000 residents (6.9) among the 50 city areas measured in the AFI data report.

For a complete list of Richmond’s strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the AFI website and download the Richmond report at www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

Richmond Skyline

Spotlight on Washington D.C. – Health and Fitness in our Nation’s Capitol

Posted December 21st, 2011

Today’s post looks at the metropolitan statistical area of Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, which spans from southern Maryland to northern Virginia. From 2008-2010, DC Metro ranked at the top of the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness Index (AFI), which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States.

This year, Minneapolis-St. Paul edged DC Metro out of the number one spot. According to the 2011 AFI data report, D.C. took the number two spot with a score of 76.8 out of a possible 100 points.

Washington D.C. dropped to 2nd this year for several reasons. It showed an increase in smokers from 12.3% in 2010, to 13.6% in 2011. The area also showed a slight increase in the number of residents reporting that they have diabetes. In 2010, the report showed 6.7% with diabetes, and in 2011 a small increase to 7.1%. However, even with these changes Washington D.C. still ranks first in personal health indicators with a score of 83.1. This is highly influenced by the 4 out of 5 people who report exercising regularly and a high percentage of citizens reporting to be in excellent or very good health (64.1%).

Washington D.C. and its surrounding areas rank 3rd for community and environmental indicators related to health. The area increased its number of farmer’s markets per million residents to 18.6 indicating an increase in healthier eating, and has an above average number of primary health care providers per 100,000 residents at 105.2. While the area reduced park related expenditures this year ($259 per capita), its still the highest amount among the 50 areas measured. And the area’s percentage of parkland is still well above average at 19.4%.

Recreational facilities are plentiful in the nation’s capitol, but getting a tee time might prove difficult — the number of golf courses per 100,000 residents is 0.5.

For a complete list of metro area’s strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the AFI website and download the Washington D.C. report at www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

The Capitol Building