The American College of Sports Medicine has ranked Arlington, Virginia, as the fittest city in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row.
Arlington landed a score of 86.1 out of 100. Minneapolis and Seattle secured second and third place, respectively, in the 2021 Fitness Index released Tuesday. The index uses 34 health measures to evaluate the nation’s 100 largest cities.
“We congratulate Arlington, Virginia, for being named America’s Fittest City for the fourth consecutive year,” said Shantanu Agrawal, chief health officer for health insurer Anthem Inc., which sponsored the fitness index. “Arlington’s longstanding commitment to being a fit city serves as a model for all communities in the U.S.”
Arlington ranked among the top 10 cities for 18 of the 34 indicators. The Northern Virginia city ranked first for personal and community health and eight other fitness indicators.
The city had the lowest percentage of residents out of the 100 cities with angina or coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, food insecurity and poor physical health, and who smoke, the fitness index shows.
Arlington also had the highest percentage of residents in excellent or very good health and who had exercised in the previous month.
The District ranked sixth on the fitness index. Richmond came in 50th, and Baltimore placed 67th.
Baltimore tied second with New Orleans for the highest rates of food insecurity. Richmond ranked ninth in that category.
Richmond ranked second and Arlington eighth for cities whose residents get seven or more hours of sleep. Less than 65% of residents in surveyed cities on average reported getting adequate amounts of sleep, according to the fitness index. Inadequate sleep can contribute to developing conditions such as diabetes, stroke, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression.
Cities in Nevada and Oklahoma had the lowest fitness rankings. North Las Vegas ranked 98th, Tulsa 99th and Oklahoma City 100th in the fitness survey.
“Regardless of their ranking in the 2021 Fitness Index, officials in all 100 of the largest U.S. cities have a significant opportunity to drive economic growth and create jobs through built environment improvements that support physical activity and healthy lifestyles,” the report researchers wrote. “After all, the first step to attracting new residents and jobs is offering a higher quality of life, in which city and local governments are highly invested in the well-being of all of their residents.”
Indicators included the percentage of residents who walk or bike to work, the number of recreational centers per 20,000 residents, the percentage of residents within a 10-minute walk to a park and the percentage of residents who meet aerobic and strength activity guidelines.
The indicators were added together to create subscores for personal health and for community and environment measurements. The researchers then calculated the weighted average of the two subscores to rate the fitness levels.
Data for the 2021 Fitness Index was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effects of the pandemic on health outcomes “will not be fully understood for several years,” the researchers said.
Before the pandemic, many of the largest cities were already unhealthy. Almost a third of residents on average had obesity, 14% smoked and 25% had not exercised in the previous month, the index researchers said.
Early studies suggested that physical activity and healthy food intake decreased during the pandemic while obesity rates and stress rates climbed.
All U.S. states and territories had more than 15% of adults who were physically inactive, meaning no leisure exercise in the previous month. Estimates ranged from 17% to nearly 48%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in January 2020.
An estimated 42% of U.S. adults had obesity in 2017 and 2018, the latest CDC data shows. Conditions linked to obesity include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.