The twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul edged Washington, D.C. in the 10th annual American Fitness Index (AFI) released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Amerigroup Foundation. The nation’s capital held the top spot for the past three years and improved its score in 2017, but Minneapolis-St. Paul still finished on top despite the challenges of being a northern state with hard winters. Rankings and individual metro data is located here.
San Francisco-Oakland finished third this year, Seattle-Tacoma fourth, San Jose fifth, Boston sixth, and Denver seventh. The top seven cities in the 2017 AFI are between 4-13 percentage points ahead of the rest of the pack, principally related to lower rates of smoking and cardiovascular disease deaths and higher reported physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and per capita park expenditures in their communities. The metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA, ranked fourth in the 2017 report with a score of 72.2 (out of 100 possible points).
Nationally, there were some remarkable positive shifts during the last year:
- 16.0% increase in the percent who met the recommendations for aerobic and strength in the last 30 days
- 10.5% drop in the percent with diagnosed angina or coronary heart disease
- 3.9% increase in walkability scores
- 3.9% increase in the percent who live within a 10-minute walk to a park
- 3.7% increase in the total park expenditures per capita
- 4.0% increase in the number of recreation centers per 20,000 residents
Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with the greatest improvement in their rankings since last year included San Jose, Los Angeles, Miami, Buffalo, Orlando and Las Vegas.
The 2017 AFI report also revealed some shortcomings over the past year:
- 11.7% increase in the rate of diabetes deaths
- 6.3% reduction in the percent of residents biking or walking to work
- 6.2% decrease in the percent of individuals eating the recommended number of servings of fruit
- 4.6% reduction in the number of tennis courts per 10,000 residents
MSAs experiencing the largest drop in their rankings this year included Virginia Beach, Richmond, Providence, Philadelphia, Kansas City, New Orleans and Charlotte.
Against the backdrop of its 10th anniversary, the AFI Data Report offers some insightful long-term trends:
- Smoking rates have declined (18.7% to 16.7%)
- Drops in the death rates for diabetes (24.0/100,000 to 18.7/100,000) and cardiovascular diseases (223.0/100,000 to 174.6/100,000)
- The number of farmers’ markets have increased (11.0/1,000,000 to 19.8/1,000,000)
- Increases in the percent of residents using public transportation to work doubled (2.1% to 4.4%)
- Residents biking or walking to work doubled (1.3% to 2.9%)
- Total park expenditures per capita increased ($100 to $106)
Conversely, the 10-year comparison of AFI data elements uncovered some challenges:
- The percent categorized as obese increased (25.4% to 28.7%)
- The percent self-reporting as having excellent or very good health declined (55.6% to 52.1%)
- The percent diagnosed with asthma increased (8.2% to 9.0%), as did the percent with diabetes (8.0% to 10.7%)
The American Fitness Index provides evidence-based data and a number of valuable resources that help cities promote healthy lifestyles. To aid communities in promoting physical activity and enhancing quality of life, ACSM and Amerigroup Foundation developed and released the AFI Community Action Guide offering an overview of the critical decisions and factors related to effective community action: americanfitnessindex.org/community-action-guide.
“Our ultimate goal is to offer individuals, families and communities trusted resources that can help them assess, plan and implement policies that promote positive health outcomes,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FASCM, who chairs the AFI Advisory Board and is president-elect of ACSM. “Ten years of evidence-based data offers these cities and their citizens valuable insights into how to substantively improve elements leading to healthier lives and reduced health care costs.”
“As the American Fit Index celebrates its 10th year, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the efforts of communities and their leaders who have effectively used the data to make measurable changes that are helping improve the health and wellness of their residents,” said Daryl Edmonds, Amerigroup Washington president. “While the improvements we are seeing are worth celebrating, we know there is still more that can be done. Amerigroup is proud of our foundation’s work and collaboration with ACSM to offer science and evidence for communities to create a culture of healthy lifestyles.”
At the community level, the AFI data report has been used as an assessment and evaluation tool to educate community leaders on the importance of key indicators of physical activity. Leaders can then focus on policy, systems and environmental change strategies that are evidence-based and create sustainability for the community.
ACSM, the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts 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.
ACSM is a global leader in promoting the benefits of physical activity and advocates for legislation that helps government and the health community make it a priority. ACSM encourages Congress to support continued funding of parks, trails and safe routes to school, as well as the need for all Americans to meet the prescribed physical activity recommendations included in the National Physical Activity Guidelines, and the need for the guidelines to be regularly updated every 10 years.
The data is made up of personal health, community and environmental indicators. Visit the online newsroom at AmericanFitnessIndex.org for a complete list of the data components.