Do you live in the healthiest American city or the worst? ACSM’s annual ranking provides some surprising answers!
The City Health List To Rule Them All
Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) publishes their American Fitness Index (AFI), ranking the 50 most important US metropolitan areas according to health and fitness.
To get the ranking, they look at everything: more or fewer parks, number of recreation centers, how many people suffer from heart illnesses or diabetes, what percentage of citizens uses bikes to go places, are there many overweight people, etc., etc., etc.
Want It Healthy? Get On Your Coat!
Who could make it to the top spot in a list like that? I admit I first thought it would be Malibu or Miami Beach, with all the ultrafit bikini girls and six-pack armored dudes. Maybe Venice, due to its famous Muscle Beach.
Nope, far off. Really, really far off. In the healthiest city of the US you need snow coats for the better part of the year. Because it’s Minneapolis. Or, more precisely, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area in Minnesota. Where they have neither beaches or oceans, but average yearly temperatures between 37 to 49°F (3 to 9°C).
Yet what they also have is more parks per square mile than any other American city, the most cyclists except for Portland, Oregon, and twice as many farmer’s markets than the top 10 percent of US cities. Add to that lower than average rates of diabetes and obesity, fewer people ill from cardiovascular disease and a well-working public transport system, and you have one fit city.
The Top 20 Healthiest And Fittest US Cities
What does the rest of the list look like? Here is the top 20. The separation between Washington, DC and Minneapolis-Saint Paul is only a fraction, by the way, but already between Portland and Minneapolis there is a much bigger gap:
- Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN
- Washington, DC
- Portland, OR
- San Francisco, CA
- Denver, CO
- Boston, MA
- Sacramento, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Hartford, CT
- San Jose, CA
- Austin, TX
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Cincinnati, OH
- San Diego, CA
- Raleigh, NC
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Baltimore, MD
- Virginia Beach, VA
- Cleveland, OH
- Richmond, VA
You can get the entire list and tons more background data in the complete AFI report, available for free right here (PDF).
Some Correlations Between Fittest And Worst
When you look over the data, you can come up with some pretty neat hypotheses.
Minneapolis, the #1, has an average household income of $63,352 and 7.2% of its people live below the poverty line. In the list’s tail-light, Oklahoma City at #50, it’s $47,023 and a whopping 12% citizens who have to make do with less than the bare minimum. Could income relate to health?
On the other hand, the unemployment rate in Oklahoma City is actually lower than in Minneapolis-Saint Paul: 6.7% vs. 7.9%. Maybe there are more people employed, but in worse conditions, resulting in employees who can’t afford health activities.
Last but not least, the public infrastructure: it contributed to its top spot that Minneapolis features more ballparks, playgrounds, dog parks, general parks, recreation centers etc. than the average US city and especially Oklahoma City.
But why doesn’t Oklahoma City have more of those? From the data I saw, the city should have some money to spend. Between 2005 and 2009, Oklahoma City’s metropolitan product grew from $43.1 to $61.1 billion and in 2013 Forbes ranked it at #8 on their list of “Best Places for Business and Careers.”
Rate Your Own City
Those 50 metropolitan areas cover a lot of people, but not nearly all. If you live outside of these behemoths, the ACSM created a neat tool you can rate your own area with. Head over to their website for the instructions.
As for me, maybe I should move to Minneapolis: from what I just read, 1/4th of its citizens sport a German descent.
Picture courtesy of “IrishFireside“.