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America’s 50 Largest Metro Areas Get Their Annual Physical

Posted May 24th, 2010

ACSM American Fitness IndexTM Provides a Snapshot of the State of Health and Fitness; Washington, D.C., Tops List of Healthiest and Fittest Metro Areas

For the third straight year, the Washington, D.C., metro area claimed the highest ranking in the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness IndexTM (AFI). The AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,” evaluates the most populous city areas to determine the healthiest and fittest metro areas in the United States. (Read the official news release.)

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.

“The ACSM American Fitness Index not only measures the state of health and fitness in our nation’s largest communities, but evaluates the infrastructure, community assets, policies and opportunities which encourage residents to live a healthy and fit lifestyle,” said AFI Advisory Board Chair Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM. “I liken the data report and rankings to the metro areas ‘getting a physical’ at the doctor’s office. The information learned from the physical will help each metro area identify areas of strength and weakness.”

ACSM received a grant from the WellPoint Foundation, based in Indianapolis, to present the 2010 data report.

Digging into the Data

The Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) of Washington-Arlington-Alexandria scored 73.5 (out of 100 possible points) in the AFI data report to achieve the top ranking, just as it did in 2008 and 2009. Metro areas completing the top five were Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and Portland, Ore. The Baltimore, Md., area (ACSM’s host city for its 2010 Annual Meeting), ranked 20th.

The western United States dominated the top 10, with only three cities lying along the eastern seaboard. The nation’s three largest cities finished in the middle of the pack with New York at 21st, Chicago at 33rd and Los Angeles at 38th.

Education proved to be a valuable predictor of health and fitness; areas with a high percentage of residents with high school degrees or higher are more likely to be physically active and be in excellent or very good health. This group is also more likely to have health insurance.

Considering the challenging economic climate in recent years, the data suggests being unemployed may be a health concern. Metro areas with a higher unemployment rate are more likely to have a higher percentage of death related to cardiovascular disease.

Poverty levels, disability rates and the rate of violent crime correlated with other health concerns, suggesting that health officials and programs may need to put more emphasis on populations that may be underserved. For example, areas with a higher percentage of households below the poverty level are more likely to smoke, be obese, have diabetes, and have both cardiovascular disease and diabetes related deaths. They are less likely to be physically active, in excellent or very good health, and have health insurance.

Check out the full report and rankings.

Putting the ACSM American Fitness IndexTM Report to Work

In addition to measuring the health and fitness of the 50 largest metro areas, the AFI data report aims to help communities develop and implement efforts to raise awareness of the issues and policies affecting health and fitness in their local area.

There are additional tools available on the AFI Web site ( to help kick-start action in the community, spread the message via local media and social networks, and guide local efforts that support health and fitness.

With AFI’s network of health promotion partners, community programs, allied associations and other organizations, each community will be able to tap into best practices and existing resources to address its unique makeup of opportunities and challenges. The ultimate result will be an improvement in community fitness and a reduction in the rates of obesity and other chronic diseases.

Coming soon! – the 2010 ACSM American Fitness Index rankings

Posted May 18th, 2010

ACSM will reveal the healthiest and fittest of America’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas on May 24, 2010, in coordination with SHAPE magazine’s ACSM American Fitness Index™ feature story, “The Top 10 Fittest Cities” in its June issue.  The complete rankings are part of the AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas.”

The AFI data report, produced in partnership with the WellPoint Foundation, reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access, as well as community resources and policies that support physical activity.

Stay tuned next week to find out how your community measures up.