Fitness Rankings about Behavior Are Not Measured Physical Health
For the third year running, Washington DC has been declared the fittest city in America. The 2015 ACSM American Fitness Index also ranked Minneapolis, Denver, Portland and San Francisco in the top five while cities like Oklahoma City and Indianapolis were at the bottom of the list.
The annual American Fitness Index does tell us some very important things about how Americans are living based on geographic location. But one thing must be understood: the fitness rankings are based on behavior and location-based opportunities to pursue fitness rather than physical examinations that actually measure individual health. So just because Washington DC has more opportunities to pursue fitness than Indianapolis does not mean the general population in the nation’s capital is healthier.
This distinction is critically important when we discuss fitness. Why? Because physical fitness is an individual choice. No matter where you live, there are steps you can take to be more physically fit and healthier. Your fitness is not dependent on your geographic location. Having said that, the annual American Fitness Index does demonstrate that some cities do a better job of promoting physical fitness through the opportunities they offer residents.
Opportunities to Get Out and About
Washington DC’s comparatively low smoking rate is one of the leading factors enabling it to be considered the fittest city in the U.S. for three years. However, the annual fitness report also lists a number of other factors common to DC and the other top cities on the list:
Extensive Public Transportation – People who use public transportation are more apt to walk or bike to and from bus or subway stations, allowing them to naturally exercise every day just in the process of getting to and from work.
Access to Parks – Cities with a fair number of easily accessible parks are prone to having more people out and about during the course of the day. Spending time in a park lends itself well to exercise.
Consistent Weather – The weather plays a significant role in fitness, according to publishers of the report. They say cities with more consistent weather are more likely to have residents who get out regularly. Temperatures in DC and Denver are reasonable throughout most of the year while temperatures in the South are oppressive enough to keep people indoors from late spring through early autumn.
The biggest take-away from the report is the fact that exercise is incredibly important to fitness. As a naturopath, I recommend regular exercise for all of my patients who are looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
I try to help my patients understand not only the importance of regular exercise but also the fact that fitness does not require 60 minutes per day of pushing your body to its limits at the gym. The standard recommendation of walking just 10 to 20 minutes per day is absolutely valid. You do not need to be an Olympic athlete or a bodybuilder to be more physically fit; you just have to get up and move so that your body gets a decent amount of activity.
If you live in one of the top 10 cities on the annual American Fitness Index report, you have an advantage over others in that your cities offer more opportunities to get out and about. Capitalize on those opportunities. For everyone else, look for ways you can be healthier, including routine exercise, good nutrition, and avoiding things such as smoking and drinking.