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What has the lowest smoking rate in the country, a wealth of farmers markets, a system of well-established parks — and now a reputation as a hot spot for health?

American Fitness Index's fittest cities

The index ranks a variety of criteria, including health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure in the 100 largest cities.

1-Arlington, Va.






4-Madison, Wis.


5-Portland, Ore.


SOURCE: American College of Sports Medicine's

2018 American Fitness Index

Arlington, Va. — Washington's next-door neighbor along the Potomac River — was named the fittest city in the USA on Tuesday by the 2018 American Fitness Index report from the American College of Sports Medicine.

The 11th annual ACSM fitness index awarded the urban hub the top ranking thanks to residents' healthy behaviors. The city's relatively low smoking rate of 5.9% pales in comparison with the 15% average of the 100 largest cities.

Close behind Arlington are Minneapolis and the nation's capital.

For the first time, the index ranked the 100 largest cities, instead of the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Rankings are based on cities' overall scores, which include data on fitness, nutrition, chronic disease, smoking, mental health, access to parks and public transportation.

"I'm not the least bit surprised," said Arlington resident Kirk Anderson, who strolls the trails weekly at Theodore Roosevelt Island, a wooded park in the Potomac River that splits Arlington and Washington. "People are running and biking everywhere all the time. And there's lots of good, healthy food around here."

Anderson's wife, Virginia Navarro, and their daughter, Danielle Anderson-Navarro, a high school lacrosse player, all agreed Arlington was more active than Miami Beach and Boston, where they lived before moving to Arlington seven years ago.

"You can walk everywhere here because of the Metro," Danielle said, referring to the area's subway system as she practiced her photography amid the dense forest on the island.

Second-ranked Minneapolis — just a half-point behind Arlington — benefits from successful collaboration between parks, schools and recreation centers, the report said.

Some cities exceed national averages for fitness, but the report shows that most Americans don't meet standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week and twice-weekly strength training.

More than 75% of Americans reported being physically active within the past month. About half of American adults meet aerobic activity guidelines. Less than a quarter meet both aerobic and strength guidelines.

"Encouraging exercise such as community walking programs and bicycling programs can help communities stem the rising tide of obesity," said Barbara Ainsworth, chair of ACSM and professor at Arizona State University.

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May 16, 2018


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