You are the only one in charge of your health and physical fitness. No one is going to drag you out of bed every morning to go to the gym or force you to spend 30 minutes on the elliptical or the treadmill. No one is going to slap the donut out of your hand and replace it with an apple, or monitor what you eat 24/7. Your health is up to you.
Or is it? Could something outside of your control be affecting your weight, your happiness, and your overall health? Could where you live in the United States affect how likely you are to have diabetes, exercise, or go outside and walk?
The answer is…yes! It turns out, where you live and the overall health of your community can affect your health and fitness habits. That’s why researchers put together the 2021 American Fitness Index – a huge research project that ranked the 100 largest cities in the country according to their health and lifestyle habits, researching everything from “health behaviors and chronic diseases to city infrastructure.” (1)
So where does your city rank in the 2021 American Fitness Ratings? Is your city among the top 25 healthiest cities in America? What about the top five? Well, check out the top 5 healthiest cities in the United States below to find out…
#5 – Madison, WI
As the second largest city in the state, Madison has a population of more than a quarter of a million people. And according to the American Fitness Ratings Index, 84% of those people reported exercising in the last 30 days. That’s an impressive statistic, considering that in the lowest ranked city, only 64.2% of people exercised in the last 30 days.
That’s an important community statistic as well. Why? Well, seeing your friends and neighbors out exercising – whether it’s riding bikes in the park, jogging around the neighborhood or just out walking the dog – can be a big motivator and encourage you to get outside and get moving too!
The city of Madison has an impressive “network of parks and bike trails” – in fact, “it has the most parks and playgrounds per capita of any of the 100 largest cities” in the US (2). With so many beautiful bike trails and parks, it’s no wonder Madisonians spent much of their time outdoors walking, biking, and running.
#4 – Denver, CO
This beautiful city with views of the Rocky Mountains comes in #4 on the list. The report discovered that Denver has a very heart-healthy population, with only “1.9% of its population having heart disease” and “only 6.3% have diabetes.” (1) More and more people in the United States suffer from these two diseases – in fact, “one person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease” (3).
A healthy diet and lifestyle are the most important factors in preventing heart disease. And that’s what people in Denver tend to do – the report showed that 82.4% of the population exercised in the last 30 days and more than half of them met aerobic activity guidelines. (1)
With so many beautiful mountains to climb in the summer and to ski down in the winter, it only makes sense that Denver’s residents exercise more than the average.
#3 – Seattle, WA
The population of the Seattle metropolitan area is more than 4 million! (4) It’s the 15th largest city in the United States, and the third most healthy city in the country. In fact, 57.4% of its population are in excellent or very good health (1).
Turns out, the city that was the backdrop of the famous 90’s romantic comedy, Sleepless in Seattle, actually has quite a healthy sleep schedule. According to the ratings, “71.2% sleep more than 7 hours a day.” (1) Sorry Tom Hanks, looks like you’re the odd one out.
According to the report, “getting adequate sleep is one of five health behaviors identified as key for preventing chronic diseases” (1). Getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night puts you at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, depression, and many other diseases. Many Americans do not get as much sleep as they should – in fact, almost half of Americans say they feel sleepy during the day more than 3 days a week (5). But not in Seattle!
#2 – Minneapolis, MN
This city situated right on the banks of the Mississippi river is the second most healthy city in the United States. The city has more than 13 lakes close by, as well as many creeks and waterfalls. Minneapolis also has “one of the nation’s best park systems” (6). The city has a walking score of 70.5, and that’s something that Minneapolis residents have definitely taken advantage of.
Minneapolis is a city that’s been designed for fitness and time outdoors. In fact, 98% of its population can walk from their home to a park in less than 10 minutes. That’s an incredible statistic, considering the fact that “nearly 100 million Americans do not live within a 10-minute walk to a public park” (1). Limited access to parks can make it difficult for residents to exercise safely.
#1 – Arlington, VA
And the fittest city in the United States according to the 2021 American Fitness Ratings Index is…Arlington, Virginia! This city has a strong community fitness, many resources that support healthy living and few challenges that distract from health and fitness.
Arlington came in at number one in the main categories of personal and community health, and also ranked #1 in eight separate categories, with 85.7% of people exercising in the last 30 days, 56.3% meeting aerobic activity guidelines and 25.9% meeting aerobic and strength activity guidelines and only 13.6% of it’s population having obesity. (1)
Creating a Fit Community
Even if you don’t live in Arlington, you can create a fit community right at home. Encouraging your friends and family to get outside and stay active not only will help them, but it can create a ripple effect in your community. When more people choose to make healthy decisions and exercise daily, more people will be able to create a healthy community and a healthy city.