Good health starts in our homes, schools, and communities. That’s why the Fitness Index looks at both personal health behaviors, meaning what we’re doing individually to get and stay healthy, as well as the community assets, like parks, playgrounds, and recreation centers, that help us do so.
For the fifth year in a row, a record for the Fitness Index, Arlington, VA, was ranked as the fittest city in America, with a score of 85.0 out of a possible 100. Arlington also ranked #1 in both the personal health and community/environment sub-scores. At the indicator level, Arlington ranked among the top 10 cities for 19 of 34 indicators, with six indicators ranked #1, including:
- 4 % exercising in the previous month,
- 4 % in excellent or very good health,
- 4 % with poor physical health in the previous month,
- 4 % with high blood pressure,
- 4 % with stroke, and
- 4 % with diabetes.
Leading competitors #2 Madison, WI, and #3 Minneapolis, MN, were virtually tied with each other, scoring 78.2 and 78.0 overall, respectively. Madison ranked in the top 10 cities for 16 indicators, and as the #1 city for playgrounds per 10,000 residents. Minneapolis ranked in the top 10 cities for 14 indicators, and the #1 city for park expenditures, recreation centers per 20,000 residents, and bikeablity (bike score).
Cities with the highest Fitness Index scores are considered to have strong community fitness, a concept analogous to individuals having strong personal fitness. Cities that rank near the top of the Fitness Index have more strengths and resources that support healthy living and fewer challenges that hinder it. The opposite is true for cities near the bottom of the rankings: These cities have less strengths and resources to support healthy living.
The study highlights the health and health habits of communities across the United States. It provides a snapshot of how we are doing and identifies what more we can do to make our cities healthier. This past year, as we all know, was a very different year, with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the Fitness Index continues to help identify how communities can ensure that we have a healthy nation.