close up of legs while cycling

ACSM’s American Fitness Index, 2016

As people who spend most weekends and many days in between competing, we know a thing or two about comparing numbers. Finish times, calorie intake and output, VO2 max, BMI, and the list goes on. The American College of Sports Medicine does this too, but less often and with lots more people. The American Fitness Index compares 50 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in several health-related metrics. The areas are ranked and a detailed summary of the area’s health strengths and weaknesses are provided in the highly anticipated annual report. Here are the top 3 MSAs on the list:

Washington DC (Washington/Arlington/Alexandria) – The nation’s capital and surrounding cities pulled in the top ranking. The area ranks low in cigarette smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease related deaths, and days per month of poor mental health. They earned high marks in walkability, availability of active outdoor lifestyle venues, and the availability of parks and farmers’ markets. Even ranking at first place, there are areas for improvement—relatively high rates of asthma and diabetes chief among them.
Minneapolis, MN (Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington) – Coming in at number two, the Minneapolis area had similar marks as the Washington DC MSA. The metro area also scored well for the acres of city land used as parkland and higher park-related expenditures per capita. The same concerns also seemed present with elevated incidents of asthma and diabetes. The region’s population also has a lower percentage of folks eating 3+ veggies per day.
Denver, CO (Denver/Aurora/Lakewood) – The Denver area racks up strong scores in the same metrics as the cities before it in addition to some other strong points. Denver seems to have accessible sports for everyone and every age—there are plenty of ball fields, swimming pools, tennis courts, and golf courses. The population has a low percentage of obese citizens. Asthma is an issue as is the amount of general use parkland available.

As you read over these cities and the other 47 on the list, you’ll see that access to healthy activities generally accompanies stronger scores. What can we non-policy-making athletes do with this information? You know your town or city. You either know or can learn its needs. Take your passions—running, cycling, general healthy living—and get involved. Start a running club that meets in different areas of your city throughout the month. Branch off as you become larger or more varied in skill level. Get involved at city hall. Recommend parks to replace blight. Repaving Main Street? Add bike lanes!

At HOTSHOT, we’ve seen what athletes like you can do on the course. You encounter obstacles every day. And every day, you get better and better at overcoming them. So, was your city on the list? How did it rank? What are suggestions you have to improve your city’s health score and how can you get involved in that improvement? Tell us your story and check back to find more information from our experts who will be speaking at ACSM16 this week.


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