How Healthy Is Your Neighborhood?


America’s fittest metro area is also its capital – for the third year in a row, Washington D.C ranked #1 in a study that determines the health and fitness of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Minneapolis-St. Paul and Denver grabbed second and third place, respectively, in the ninth annual American Fitness Index (AFI) which was released today by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Anthem Foundation.

The AFI studies the fitness level of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

The three top metro areas scored high due to their residents’ propensity to walk rather than use public transportation, an abundance of parkland in which locals can exercise, and a low rate of cardiovascular and diabetes issues among the population. Minneapolis- St. Paul almost won first place, but The Washington, D.C., region’s lower rate of smoking tipped the scales in its favor.

The other metro areas that ranked in the top ten were Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Salt Lake City, Hartford, and San Diego.

Some of the nation’s prime tourist locations were ranked in the middle of the list. New York placed 22nd, Miami/Fort Lauderdale came in at 32, followed by New Orleans at #33 (up almost ten points from last year’s score of #42). Las Vegas scored 42 and Orlando, Florida was right behind it at 43.

The cities that ranked third lowest were all Midwestern metro areas; Indianapolis, Oklahoma City and Louisville.

The study’s authors noted that as a nation, we’re doing remarkably better than last year.  Overall, in 2016, there was an:

  • 8% increase in the percentage of individuals who indicated they exercised in the last 30 days
  • 7% drop in the percentage who smoked
  • 4% drop in the diabetes death rates overall
  • 2% increase in city spending on parks per metro resident

And twice as many states in 2016 had policies that required teaching physical education in public schoos.

But not all of the news is good. Nineteen metro areas scores slipped dramatically over the past year. Cities that saw the largest drops included Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Sacramento and San Diego.

The report also found a 7.7 percent increase in the percentage of the surveyed metro areas population reporting a diagnosis of angina and a 7.0 percent increase in the percentage reporting a diagnosis of diabetes.

Anthem Chief Clinical Officer Craig Samitt, MD, said in a statement that promoting a healthy lifestyle begins with each individual. Samitt encourages all Americans to exercise for at least 30 minutes and participate in 10 minutes of stretching and light muscle training five days a week. Incorporating activity into the weekday schedule and practicing good nutrition are other good ways to improve fitness.

According to the study’s authors, being physically active is one of the most important ways adults and children can improve and maintain their overall health.1-4 For adults, regular exercise can reduce the risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and the risk of falls.

For children and adolescents, regular physical activity can decrease body fat and improve bone health, cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength. Physical activity also can decrease the risk of depression in adults and reduce depression symptoms in young people.

The study was designed by the ACSM, the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts who developed the methodology to analyze U.S. Census data, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), The Trust for the Public Land City Park Facts and other existing research data in order to give a scientific, accurate snapshot of the health and fitness status at a metropolitan level.

You can get an in-depth view of how fit your city is in the study’s Trend Reports, which trace the positive and negative factors in each surveyed city from 2009 to 2016.

And don’t forget, a healthy body includes a healthy smile. Untreated periodontal (gum) disease will destroy gums and bones. Oral infections have also been linked with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory, infections, breast cancer and premature births. Additional studies on the connections between periodontal and other diseases are being conducted, but it’s safe to say that dental care is critical to maintaining good health.

Dental disease is almost entirely preventable with regular preventive care and treatment. If you’ve been delaying getting dental care due to budget issues, don’t wait any longer.

A dental savings plan can cut the costs of dental care by 10%-60%. To find out more about dental savings plans, visit or call 1-800-238-5163. If you’ve been delaying getting dental care due to budget issues, don’t wait any longer. A dental savings plan can cut the costs of dental care by 10%-60%. To find out more about dental savings plans, visit or call 1-800-238-5163.


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