Four cities in Nevada were ranked in the top 100 in the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual American Fitness Index rankings.
Arlington, Virginia, has been named “America’s Fittest City” in the science-based evaluation that uses 33 health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure indicators to formulate the rankings, published by the ACSM and the Anthem Foundation.
Seattle; Minneapolis; Madison, Wisconsin; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Irvine, California; Denver; Boise, Idaho; and Boston rounded out the top 10 fittest cities. Among Nevada cities, Reno was No. 55, Henderson was No. 87, Las Vegas was No. 88 and North Las Vegas was No. 98.
“We are pleased to reinforce our commitment to our local communities and whole person health and wellness with this year’s Fitness Index report,” said Gail Boudreaux, president and CEO of Anthem. “These annual rankings offer cities meaningful guidance on health habits within their communities and reveal how well those communities encourage healthy lifestyles among their residents.
“We’re pleased to provide municipalities with the data-rich information and resources they need to address social determinants of health and to motivate action.”
The evolving Fitness Index, now in its 13th year, allows leaders to focus on policy, systems and environmental change strategies that are based on evidence and create sustainability for their communities.
Arlington’s balance of healthy behaviors and community infrastructure earned it the No. 1 overall rank. Arlington ranked in the top 10 for 19 of the 33 indicators in the ACSM/Anthem Fitness Index, including No. 1 rankings for lowest rate of adults with obesity and highest rate of residents meeting aerobic and strength activity guidelines.
Arlington has earned the fittest city title three consecutive years.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the critical role cities play in ensuring their residents have opportunities and infrastructure to lead physically active, healthy lifestyles. “We know from research that physical activity can build a healthier immune system and overall wellness, which help minimize harmful effects of illness and disease,” said Barbara Ainsworth, chair of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board. “This pandemic shows the need to have local parks, trails and connected sidewalks in all neighborhoods that allow people to exercise safely. City leaders and planners need to act boldly and decisively to enact policies and funding to promote physical activity, better health and stronger communities.”
Ainsworth noted that societal health challenges existed long before the pandemic, and the Fitness Index has provided the data needed to address them for more than a decade.
“It should be of national concern that only one in four Americans meets national physical activity guidelines and more than 30 million have diagnosed heart disease,” she added. “Sedentary lifestyles across the United States cost more than $117 billion annually in sick care services, adversely impacting both our nation’s health and economic well-being. This challenge has local solutions, and the Fitness Index is a prescription for communities to bring about positive change.”
Across all 100 cities, indicators improved for the rate of residents exercising, fewer people smoking, parks within a 10-minute walk and Bike Score, as compared to 2019.
Three cities — Buffalo, New York; Toledo, Ohio; and Anchorage, Alaska — saw their ranking improved by at least 15 spots from 2019.
Only 22% of adults in the 100 largest cities met the guidelines for both aerobic and strength activities. Adults need 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or roughly 22 minutes per day, for substantial health benefits.
Across all 100 cities, only 4.5% of residents walk or bike to work, and only 7% use public transportation. The cities reporting the highest percentages were Boston; Jersey City, New Jersey; New York; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.
Neighborhoods connected by sidewalks, protected bike lanes, lighting and benches reduce pedestrian fatalities, and safety features can affect how often residents choose to walk or bike. The 10 deadliest cities for pedestrians averaged 5.5 pedestrian deaths per 100 residents, while the 10 safest cities averaged 0.6 fatalities per 100,000 residents. Four of the 10 deadliest cities are in Florida.
Minneapolis, Madison and Denver made it into the top 10 despite weather extremes, showing that local leaders can make it easier for residents to stay physically active year-round.
More comparative data and indicator rankings can be found at www.americanfitnessindex.org