For the first time, 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).
The 2011 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 edged out previous leader Washington, D.C. for the top spot this year with a score of 77.2 (out of 100 possible points).
Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington D.C. (respectively ranked three and one in 2010) both improved their scores this year; however, the Twin Cities took the lead thanks to greater improvements in healthy behavior measures and a reduction in the percentage of smokers.
Several factors contributed to the Twin Cities’ ranking, including a relatively low smoking rate, an above-average percentage of exercising residents and moderate-to-low rates of chronic health concerns such as obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. While the area reduced park-related expenditures this year, its percentage of parkland is still above average, as is the percentage of recreational facilities (other than swimming pools). Farmers markets in the area also increased this year, indicating a trend in healthier eating.
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.
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; and 2) community and environmental indicators.