May 29, 2008 (Indianapolis) -- San Francisco edged out Seattle for the title of the fittest big city in America, according to a new report released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
Detroit was ranked at the bottom of the 16 cities studied.
For the survey, a panel of health and fitness experts analyzed U.S. census, CDC, and other government data on America's 15 most populous metropolitan areas, plus Indianapolis, which is headquarters for the ACSM and site of its annual meeting this week.
The ratings are based on personal health indicators, such as the percentage of residents who are obese, who smoke, or who have exercised in the past 30 days; community and environmental indicators such as the number of recreation centers, parks, and other green spaces; and the number of health care providers.
San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area achieved the top ranking with a score of 403, out of a possible 432 points.
Seattle ranked second, with a score of 401 points.
The rest of the rankings:
- Boston, 370 points.
- Washington, D.C., 369 points.
- Atlanta, 285 points.
- Philadelphia, 268 points.
- Chicago, 267 points.
- Dallas/Fort Worth, 261.
- New York City/Tri-State region, 260.
- Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, 235.
- Phoenix, 233.
- Indianapolis, 231.
- Houston, 209.
- Los Angeles, 208
- Riverside, Calif. (score not available due to lack of community data)
- Detroit, 149 points.
Lack of Walking Trails a Deterrent to Exercise
Walt Thompson, PhD, chairman of the panel that created the index and a professor of exercise physiology at Georgia State University in Atlanta, says the group's hope is that cities will use the report to identify areas that need improvement.
He notes that a recent survey commissioned by the ACSM showed that nearly three-fourths of Americans rated their community's efforts to encourage physical activity as average or poor. About half said a lack of walking or biking trails in their area were deterrents to regular physical activity; one in four complained of a scarcity of public parks.
"I'm from Atlanta where we're always complaining that there are not enough bike and jogging paths, so I was surprised when we came in No. 5. But I'd like to see us go up to No. 1, and one way to do that might be to create more sidewalks so people can walk more," Thompson tells WebMD.
Panel member Terrell Zollinger, DrPH, professor of family medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, says, "Physical activity is key to wellness. We're battling an epidemic of obesity in this country, and cities can help combat that epidemic by offering more areas where residents can exercise."
Zollinger cautions against putting too much emphasis on Detroit's low ranking. "As big an issue as fitness is, maybe unemployment is an even a bigger issue," he says.