Nation’s capital scores tops in health and community fitness
The Washington, D.C., metro area is the fittest of America’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness Index (AFI).
The 2009 rankings are part of the AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas.” The report, produced in partnership with the WellPoint Foundation, is a snapshot of the state of health and fitness in America’s most populous metropolitan areas.
Availability of parks and recreation facilities was one of the criteria used to determine leading metro areas in health and community fitness. A few of the parks/recreation measures that were used in the AFI calculations:
Ball diamonds per 10,000 population
Recreation centers per 20,000
Park playgrounds per 10,000
Swimming pools per 100,000
Golf courses per 100,000
Tennis courts per 10,000
Acres of parkland per 1,000
Parklands as a percent of metropolitan statistical area (MSA) land area
Park-related expenditures per capita
The San Francisco-based Trust for the Public Land and its Center for City Park Excellence were sources of some of the AFI’s parks and recreation facilities data.
The AFI ranking 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. In addition to its ranking and data report, AFI is a program designed to help communities identify opportunities to improve the health of their residents and expand community assets to better support active, healthy lifestyles.
“ACSM believes that researching and understanding the scope of the problem is the first step toward developing programs, initiatives and policies to increase physical activity,” according to AFI Advisory board chair Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM. “The data evaluated for this report will help identify each metropolitan area’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Based on figures related to healthy lifestyles and physical activity, the MSA of Washington-Arlington-Alexandria scored 74.4 in the AFI data report to achieve the top ranking. Metro areas completing the top five were Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Boston and San Francisco. The Golden Gate city finished at the top of the first AFI ranking in 2008.
The western United States dominated the AFI’s top 10, with only three of the top cities lying east of the Mississippi River. The nation’s largest cities finished in the middle of the pack with New York at 22, Chicago at 25 and Los Angeles at 30.
Top metro finisher Washington boasts a high percentage of city land area for parks; higher park-related expenditures per capita; more recreation centers, tennis courts, park units and swimming pools per capita; a high percentage of residents using public transportation or bicycling/walking to work; a higher-level state requirement for physical education classes; and a higher-than-average number of primary health care providers.
The Washington metro area also scored above average on the percentage of its residents who eat five or more fruits and vegetables per day, and it has a low percentage of smokers. The area also has lower percentages of those with chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, angina or coronary heart disease.
Visit the American Fitness Index web site for more information.