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U.S. Health and Fitness Report: Washington D.C. Ranked Fittest City, See Where Other Cities Fall

First Posted: May 28, 2014 05:01 PM EDT
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The Washington D.C. metro area is being credited as this year's fittest city. The 2014 American Fitness Index gave D.C. that distinction based on several factors.

The American College of Sports Medicine published the report which uses federal data and other statistics to compare the cities. Chronic health problems like asthma or diabetes, health behaviors like smoking and eating fruits, physical or built environments (parks, farmer's markets) and recreational facilities (pools, playgrounds) were among some of the factors that determined how fit a city was.

The findings of the sports medicine professionals then lead to conclusions on the state of health of a particular city.

The Washington metro area achieved a score of 77.3 out of 100 possible points. Most notably, personal health behaviors and amenities that support physical activity and healthy living were D.C.'s strengths, says Walter Thompson, chairman of the advisory board that created the index and a professor of exercise physiology at Georgia State University in Atlanta. 

D.C. also boasts 19.5 percent of the city land being designated as park land. That's above the target goal for cities of 10.6 percent. D.C. residents also contribute $398 per resident towards park expenses, above the target goal of $101.80 per resident.

D.C. scores well with having farmer's markets per capita (28.5 per 1,000,000), percent of commuters using public transportation (14.1 percent), average percent of commuters biking or walking (4 percent) and having a Walk Score of 74. 

Residents in D.C. enjoy more recreation centers, pools and tennis courts than target goals for healthy cities. The city also has lower death rates from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The top five fittest cities were:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
  3. Portland, Oregon
  4. Denver, Colorado
  5. San Francisco, California

Not scoring well in the American Fitness Index were: Nashville (46th with a score of 32.5 out of 100), Indianapolis (47th, 32.3 points), Oklahoma City (48th, 31.6 points), Louisville (49th, 25.7 points) and Memphis (50th, 24.8).

The index gives cities a chance to see how they are rated in various categories. It gives them a chance to improve or expand on the amenities and health services it offers.

"I've worked with a number of those groups and they want to know how do we judge ourselves, how do we know if we're doing the right things, what should we be working on?" says physician Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

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