Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

July 2021

Arlington, Va., Named 'Fittest City'

Arlington, Va., has been named "America's Fittest City" in the annual American Fitness Index rankings published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Anthem Foundation.

The ACSM/Anthem Fitness Index evaluated America's 100 largest cities using 34 evidence-based indicators. Rounding out the top 10 fittest cities are Minneapolis; Seattle; Denver; Madison, Wis.; Washington, D.C.; St. Paul, Minn.; Irvine, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Atlanta, Ga., which cracked the top 10 for the first time.

"Beyond the health and wellness benefits of being a fit city, we know there are many economic advantages as well," said Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., chief health officer, Anthem Inc. "Cities designed to encourage physical activity have enjoyed higher home values, business and job growth, and more robust retail activity—leading to overall improved social drivers of health for our communities. We encourage city leaders and planners to take bold action in driving improvements in their community, regardless of where they rank. There is always room to grow."

Now in its 14th year, the Fitness Index offers city leaders valuable research to make potentially life-changing decisions on policy, systems and environmental change strategies to drive fitness and health improvements in their communities. The Fitness Advisory Board added two new indicators this year—food insecurity and sleep—to highlight the importance of a holistic perspective in personal and community fitness.

The results show too many of us sleep too little and don't have access to nutritious food. St. Louis ranked No. 1 in food insecurity at 18.2%, with Baltimore, Md., and New Orleans close behind at 18%. Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or unlimited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

In the area of sleep, data revealed fewer than 65% of residents in the top 100 cities reported getting adequate amounts (seven hours or more per day). Four Texas cities—Lubbock, Arlington, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi—were among the top 10 cities whose residents reported getting at least seven hours of sleep. Residents of Cleveland reported getting the least sleep, with only 53.3% of residents achieving seven or more hours per day.

Arlington, Va., earned its No. 1 designation by ranking first in eight indicators and scoring among the top 10 cities in 18 of the 34 categories. All cities can be compared to Arlington or others ranked in the Fitness Index by accessing the online City Comparison Tool.

"As we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, it is even more important that Americans get back to the basics and return to a more physically active, nutrition-conscious and healthy lifestyle," said Stella Volpe, Ph.D., R.D.N., ACSM-CEP, FACSM, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and chair of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board. "Despite the overwhelming evidence that physical activity helps prevent and manage chronic diseases, improve mental health and strengthen the immune system, most adults are still not moving enough."

ACSM and the CDC recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both for adults. They also recommend muscle strengthening activity twice a week. Volpe said approximately 25% of adults in the Fitness Index cities reported no exercise in the previous month, and only 50.8% met the aerobic activity guidelines, while a smaller percentage (23.7%) met the guidelines for both aerobic and strength activities. In addition to poor exercise habits, 14% of residents in the largest 100 cities smoke

"Local community leaders must step up and make wise spending choices, policy decisions and infrastructure changes to enhance the ability of residents to be physically active and healthy," Volpe said.

Additional findings from the 2021 Fitness Index rankings include:

  • Arlington, Va., residents reported the most physical activity, with 85.7% exercising in the previous month. In the lowest-ranked city, Lubbock, Texas, only 64.2% of residents exercised in the previous month.
  • St. Petersburg, Fla., residents ranked first in meeting aerobic activity guidelines, with 65.4%. In Lexington, Ky., only 34.2% of residents met the aerobic guidelines.
  • Anaheim, Irvine and Santa Ana, Calif., residents tied for No. 1 in meeting both aerobic and strength activity guidelines with 31% of residents meeting that goal. In Tulsa, Okla., only 15.7% of residents met both aerobic and strength activity guidelines.

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