Arlington, Virginia Named ‘Fittest City’ in the 2022 American Fitness Index® Rankings

INDIANAPOLIS–(COMMERCIAL WIRE)–Arlington, Virginia, has been named “America’s Fittest City” in the annual American Fitness Index® Rankings published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Elevance Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Elevance Health.

The ACSM/Elevance Health Foundation Fitness Index evaluated the 100 largest cities in the United States using 34 evidence-based indicators. Rounding out the top 10 fittest cities are Madison, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Washington DC; Seattle, Washington; Irvine, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Saint Paul, Minn.; Denver, Colorado; and Chicago, Illinois (first time in the top 10). Full rankings and scores, a summary report, a city comparison tool, and other insights are available on the Fitness Index website.

“Congratulations to the city leaders and planners who led efforts to develop parks and playgrounds, build safe streets and bike paths, and provide a built environment that encourages physical activity,” said Shantanu Agrawal, MD, director of health from Elevance Health. “As we entered another year of the pandemic, health disparities in our communities continued to be an issue, which only encourages us to tackle health equity head-on. We also faced another year of loss, illness, and isolation, resulting in the need to improve mental health. As we begin to return to our previous routines, we must underscore the important mental and physical health benefits that exercise has on our lives.”

Now in its fifteenth year, Fitness Index provides city leaders with valuable research to make life-changing decisions on environmental change policies, systems and strategies that drive improvements in health and fitness in their communities.

As mental health problems grow rapidly across the country, this year’s Fitness Index provides statistical evidence of the scope of the problem. On average, 39.6% of residents in the cities in the fitness index reported mental health problems. Nearly 58% of adults in the US perceive a negative effect related to the pandemic on their emotional or mental health. Cities reporting the highest rates of poor mental health (listed from highest to lowest) include New Orleans, Louisiana; Laredo, Texas; San francisco California; Washington DC; San Jose, Calif.; Madison, Wisconsin; Lubbock, Texas; Stockton, California; Riverside, Calif.; and Cincinnati, Ohio.

There are good news. Research has shown that physical activity, both aerobic and strength-training, is effective in preventing and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving mood and self-esteem, and improving sleep quality.

ACSM issued a statement in August 2021 offering resources on the benefits of physical activity for people with mental health concerns.

“The Fitness Index Advisory Council hypothesized that poor mental health issues could be a major factor because the pandemic disrupted every phase of our lives, some more than others,” said Stella Volpe, Ph.D., RDN , ACSM-CEP, FACSM, Chairman of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board. “Our decision to focus on this important factor was the right one. We found that cities ranked in the top 25 tended to do well on personal health indicators; however, there was one exception: mental health. Four cities in the top 25 also ranked among the cities with the worst mental health.

The ACSM and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, about 22 minutes a day. They also recommend muscle-strengthening activity twice a week. Volpe said 22.4% of adults in the Fitness Index cities reported not exercising in the past month, and only 50.9% met the aerobic activity guidelines, while an even smaller percentage (23.8) met the guidelines for aerobic and strength activity.

“Increases in physical activity are likely to help reduce mental health burden,” Volpe said. “This underscores the need for local community leaders to step up and make bold spending decisions, policy decisions and infrastructure changes to increase opportunities for residents to be physically active and healthy. Local community actions that modify personal behaviors also reduce obesity rates, the incidence of chronic diseases, and stress. The ACSM and Elevance Health Foundation now implement educational and outreach activities throughout the year around the Fitness Index results to help identify needs in each city and contribute to potential solutions.”

Arlington, Virginia earned its No. 1 designation for the fifth time, a Fitness Index record, by ranking first in six indicators and scoring in the top 10 cities in 19 of 34 categories. Arlington ranked first in the personal health and community/environment subscores. All cities can be compared to Arlington or others ranked on the Fitness Index by accessing the online City Comparison Tool.

Additional findings from the 2022 Fitness Index rankings include:

  • Cities ranked No. 1 for meeting exercise indicators included Arlington, Virginia, for exercising in the previous month; St. Petersburg, Florida, for meeting aerobic activity guidelines; and Anaheim, Irvine and Santa Ana, California, tied for meeting strength and aerobic activity guidelines.

  • There was an increase in the percentage of Americans exercising in the past month (77.6%); sleeping more than 7 hours/day (68%); and reporting excellent/very good health (55.9%), from last year’s fitness index.

  • Tampa, Florida jumped from 57th to 25th in the rankings, with the biggest change being an improvement in personal health indicators. Tampa saw increases in exercise, sleep, and those in excellent/very good health. It saw decreases in reports of poor physical health, angina/coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

  • Spokane, Washington replaced Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the top 100 cities based on US Census population data. Spokane ranked 30th overall.

Listed below are the 2022 ACSM/Elevance Health Foundation Fitness Index rankings.

General ranking

1. Arlington, VA

2. Madison, Wisconsin

3. Minneapolis, MN

4. Washington, D.C.

5. Seattle, Wash.

6. Irvine, Calif.

7. Portland, Oregon

8. St. Paul, Minn.

9. Denver, Colo.

10. Chicago, Ill.

11.Oakland, Calif.

12. Boise, I.D.

13. Boston, MA

14. San Francisco, Calif.

15. Aurora, Colo.

16. Lincoln, NE

17. New York, New York

18. Atlanta, Ga.

19. Jersey City, NJ

20. San Jose, Calif.

21. Buffalo, New York

22. Honolulu, Hawaii

23. San Diego, Calif.

24. Santa Ana, Calif.

25. Tampa, Florida

26. Fremont, Calif.

27. Austin, Texas

28. Sacramento, Calif.

29. Plano, Texas

30. Spokane, Wash.

31. Anaheim, Calif.

32.Milwaukee, WI

33. Albuquerque, New Mexico

34. Raleigh, North Carolina

35. Tucson, Arizona

36. Richmond, VA

37. Durham, North Carolina

38. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

39. St. Petersburg, Fla.

40. Miami, Fla.

41. Long Beach, Calif.

42. Glendale, Arizona

43. Virginia Beach, VA

44. Omaha, NE

45. Newark, New Jersey

46. ​​New Orleans, LA

47. Norfolk, VA

48. Chula Vista, Calif.

49. Colorado Springs, Colorado

50. Reno, Nevada

51. Orlando, Fla.

52. Los Angeles, Calif.

53. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

54. Charlotte, North Carolina

55. Cleveland, OH

56. Anchorage, AK

57. Dallas, Texas

58. Chandler, Arizona

59. Hialeah, Fla.

60. Scottsdale, Arizona

61. Houston, Texas

62. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

63. Nashville, Tennessee

64. Stockton, Calif.

65. Mesa, Ariz.

66.Phoenix, Arizona

67. Baltimore, MD

68. Cincinnati, OH

69. San Antonio, Texas

70. St. Louis, MO

71. Jacksonville, Fla.

72. Greensboro, North Carolina

73. Gilbert, Arizona

74. Garland, Texas

75. Fort Wayne, IN

76. Columbus, OH

77. El Paso, Texas

78. Fresno, Calif.

79. Laredo, Texas

80. Irving, Texas

81. Corpus Christi, Texas

82. Fort Worth, Texas

83.5. Arlington, Texas

83.5. Toledo, Ohio

85. Bakersfield, Calif.

86. Lubbock, Texas

87. Chesapeake, VA

88. Kansas City, MO

89. Wichita, Kan.

90. Riverside, Calif.

91. Detroit, MI

92. Lexington, Kentucky

93. Henderson, Nevada

94. Memphis, Tennessee

95. Las Vegas, Nevada

96. Louisville, Kentucky

97. Indianapolis, IN

98. Tulsa, United States

99. North Las Vegas, Nevada

100. Oklahoma City, OK

About the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization with more than 50,000 international, national, and regional members and certified fitness professionals. All are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. ACSM advocates for legislation that supports continued funding for parks, trails, and safe routes to school; the need for all Americans to meet the physical activity recommendations included in the National Physical Activity Guidelines; as well as the need for the guidelines to be regularly updated every 10 years. For more than a decade, the ACSM American Fitness Index has provided an annual snapshot of community fitness for some of the largest cities and metropolitan areas in the US. Built Environment, Recreational Facilities, and Politics/ financing. Cities with the highest scores are considered to be in good community fitness, a concept analogous to individuals who are in good personal fitness. Find more details at http://www.acsm.org or follow us @ACSMFitIndex on Twitter/ #100FitCities.

About Elevance Health Foundation

Elevance Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Elevance Health, Inc. The foundation works to advance health equity by focusing on improving the health of socially vulnerable people through partnerships and programs in our communities with an emphasis on maternal and child health; substance use disorder; and food as medicine. Through its key areas of focus, the Foundation also strategically aligns with Elevance Health’s focus on community health and becoming a trusted, lifelong health partner that is fueled by its purpose of improving the health of The humanity. For more information about the Elevance Health Foundation, visit www.elevancehealth.foundation or follow us @ElevanceFND on Twitter and the Elevance Health Foundation on Facebook.

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