Minneaoplis-St.Paul Tops Fit List for Second Straight Year

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ACSM American Fitness Index™ 2012 report identifies healthiest, fittest metro areas in the U.S.; Latest report adds benchmarks to help direct community-level efforts.

For the second consecutive year, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the healthiest, fittest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual American Fitness Index™ (AFI).

Made possible by a grant from the WellPoint Foundation, the 2012 AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,” evaluated the most populous city areas to identify the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington achieved a high score of 76.4 (out of 100 possible points) to capture the top ranking.

Minneapolis-St. Paul’s total decreased slightly from its previous score of 77.2 on the 2011 AFI data report. However, a leading mix of scores on personal health indicators and community/environmental indicators helped it remain at the top of the rankings.

Factors contributing to the Twin Cities’ leading score included high marks for physical activity levels; a low rate of diabetes; above-average quantity of recreational amenities; strong numbers of pedestrian, bike and transit commuters; and excellence in parkland as a percentage of the city land area plus strong investment in park-related expenditures.

How Metro Areas Can Use the AFI Rankings

“For cities to compete for talent in the future and to provide a high quality of life for residents, it’s critical to regularly evaluate the infrastructure, community assets, policies and opportunities that encourage healthy and fit lifestyles,” said Walter Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, chair of the AFI Advisory Board. “It’s up to community health leaders and advocates in each metro area to put this information to good use.”

The AFI data report reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access and community resources and policies that support physical activity. New to the 2012 AFI data report is a benchmark for each data indicator to help identify areas that need improvement.

“Although many people will gravitate to which cities are fit or less fit, it’s important to remember that there is room for improvement in every community,” added Thompson. “It’s also worth noting that even the lowest-ranked areas have healthy residents and community resources that support health and fitness.”

Technical Assistance at the Metro Level

Last year, ACSM received a $171,880 grant from the WellPoint Foundation to present the 2011 and 2012 AFI data reports and to pilot improvement efforts in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City, which both ranked in the bottom six.

With leadership from the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and Health by Design, community leaders and organizations in Indianapolis initiated a strategic plan based on a comprehensive review of in-depth interviews with key community leaders (key informant interviews) conducted last fall. The plan focuses on improving physical activity levels, promoting healthy eating, reducing the use of tobacco and fostering built environment initiatives. A long-term strategic plan will be released in early summer 2012 and public input will be sought.

In Oklahoma City, representatives from ACSM and the AFI board met with Mayor Mick Cornett and other local governmental leaders in December 2011 to discuss the results of key informant interviews, which were conducted earlier that fall. The discussion and consultation centered on encouraging healthy eating and increasing physical activity. A plan of action for Oklahoma City is under way.

In 2012, ACSM will work with community organizations in four additional metro areas with low rankings to help drive health improvement efforts. Another four cities will be added in 2013, bringing the total to 10 cities receiving tailored technical assistance. Enabled by the WellPoint Foundation grant, the technical assistance effort identifies actionable areas with the best evidence for improving health, focuses on doing the most good for the most residents – with a high priority on underserved populations – and works to quickly make a community-wide impact.

The WellPoint Foundation’s support for ACSM, the AFI report and technical assistance program is part of its continuing commitment to address health disparities and improve public health across the country. Through its State Health Index – a state-by-state compilation of public health measures – and Healthy Generations program, the WellPoint Foundation works to identify the issues most in need of attention and then directs its charitable support and volunteer efforts toward improving health in those areas. Reducing cardiac mortality rates, promoting active lifestyles and addressing the long-term health threats posed by childhood obesity are major focus areas of the Foundation.

“Since its launch in 2008, the WellPoint Foundation has proudly been the lead sponsor of the ACSM American Fitness Index program,” said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the WellPoint Foundation. “We believe this scientific and data-driven endeavor can be a powerful tool for creating positive change in communities across the country, and we look forward to seeing the results and best practices that come out of the cities supported by the technical assistance program.”

The metropolitan rankings included in the 2012 AFI report are:

Rank    Metropolitan Area     2012 Score    2011 Rank    2011 Score
1.    Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.    76.4         1                     77.2
2.    Washington, D.C.                    75.8         2                     76.8
3.    Boston, Mass.                            70.0         3                     69.1
4.    San Francisco, Calif.    69.0    6    66.8*
5.    Hartford, Conn.    68.5    7    66.8*
6.    Sacramento, Calif.    68.4    10    65.3
7.    Portland, Ore.    67.9    4    67.7
8.    Seattle, Wash.    67.8    8    66.5
9.    Denver, Colo.    65.6    5    67.6
10.    Austin, Texas    63.4    16    57.8
11.    Virginia Beach, Va.    63.2    9    65.8
12.    San Jose, Calif.    62.2    11    65.2
13.    Salt Lake City, Utah    59.8    15    59.8
14.    Raleigh, N.C.    58.8    24    50.0
15.    Pittsburgh, Pa.    58.7    17    55.5
16.    San Diego, Calif.    58.3    13    63.3
17.    Richmond, Va.    57.2*    12    64.2
18.    Providence, R.I.    57.2*    19    55.1
19.    Baltimore, Md.    56.8    20    53.7
20.    Cincinnati, Ohio    56.2    14    60.3
21.    Atlanta, Ga.    53.8    18    55.2
22.    New York, N.Y.    52.8    30    48.3
23.    Cleveland, Ohio    52.4    25    49.6
24.    Philadelphia, Pa.    52.1    27    49.3*
25.    Buffalo, N.Y.    49.0    23    50.2
26.    Phoenix, Ariz.    47.9    32    45.3
27.    Nashville, Tenn.    47.3*    37    42.3*
28.    Chicago, Ill.    47.3*    28    48.9
29.    Kansas City, Mo.    47.2    22    51.5
30.    Milwaukee, Wis.    46.8    21    51.8
31.    Miami, Fla.    45.2    35    43.1
32.    St. Louis, Mo.    44.2    26    49.3*
33.    Charlotte, N.C.    43.1*    36    42.3*
34.    Riverside, Calif.    43.1*    44    36.8
35.    Jacksonville, Fla.    42.6    31    46.7
36.    Tampa, Fla.    42.4    40    40.4
37.    New Orleans, La.    42.2    34    43.9
38.    Los Angeles, Calif.    41.2    41    39.1
39.    Las Vegas, Nev.    40.0    43    37.8
40.    Columbus, Ohio    39.8    38    42.2
41.    Orlando, Fla.    39.2    29    48.6
42.    San Antonio, Texas    38.0    33    45.0
43.    Indianapolis, Ind.    37.3    45    34.4
44.    Memphis, Tenn.    36.8    48    32.9
45.    Houston, Texas    36.4    42    38.3
46.    Birmingham, Ala.    36.1    47    33.6
47.    Dallas, Texas    35.1    39    41.3
48.    Louisville, Ky.    32.1    49    29.0
49.    Detroit, Mich.    29.4    46    33.8
50.    Oklahoma City, Okla.    28.2    50    24.6

*Scores have been rounded to the nearest tenth of a point, resulting in some apparent ties; however, the rankings are based on the full, calculated scores that were not equal in those cases.

About the ACSM American Fitness Index™ Program and Report

To assist with measurement and to provide a baseline measure of health and fitness status, ACSM worked with the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts on the methodology of the AFI data report. Researchers analyzed the data gleaned from U.S. Census data, 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.

The data examined fall into two categories: 1) personal health indicators and 2) community and environmental indicators. Visit the online newsroom at http://www.AmericanFitnessIndex.org for a complete list of the data components.

About the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

About the WellPoint Foundation

The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s annual associate giving campaign and provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit http://www.wellpointfoundation.org.

Ryan Puckett at (317) 721-7221 or ryan(at)two-21(dot)com (ACSM American Fitness Index™)
Annie Bell at (317) 352-3849 or abell(at)acsm(dot)org (American College of Sports Medicine)
Scott Larrivee at (262) 523-4746 or scott(dot)larrivee(at)wellpoint(dot)com (WellPoint Foundation)

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