In 2008, the ACSM launched the AFI to help the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. determine opportunities to improve the health, fitness and quality of life for their residents. The program also identifies opportunities to expand community resources to better support active, healthy lifestyles.
Each city is ranked based on a collection of preventative health behaviors, levels of chronic disease, health care access as well as community assets and policies that support physical activity. Demographic and economic diversity along with violent crime levels are also factored into the score.
Based on these factors, a city is given a score (out of 100 possible points). Communities with the highest AFI scores are considered to have strong community fitness. The report is a snapshot of the state of health and fitness of the nation’s largest metro areas.
The top 5 healthiest cities and their score were:
- Minneapolis, MN (77.2)
- Washington, DC (76.8)
- Boston, MA (69.1)
- Portland, OR (67.7)
- Denver, CO (67.6)
- Oklahoma City, OK (24.6)
- Louisville, KY (29.0)
- Birmingham, AL (33.6)
- Detroit, MI (33.8)
- Indianapolis, IN (34.4)
The Bottom LineGiven that I live in California, I expected that Los Angeles (where we live) to score relatively high. However, LA’s score was just 39.1 and ranked near the bottom. Why?
Despite all of the focus on health, residents of LA have some behaviors that are not health-promoting and have chronic health problems. For example, a lower percent are physically active (at least moderately active) and a higher percent have diabetes. These personal health indicators coupled with fewer farmer’s markets, playgrounds, golf courses, swimming pools and tennis courts, resulted in a lower score.
Even if your community has a low AFI score (like ours), that doesn’t mean that you can’t lead an active and healthy lifestyle. You may have to be a bit more resourceful, but as the old expression goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.