Report: D.C. region remains fittest in nation

Bicyclists and runners are seen in Falls Church, Virginia. (WTOP/Ed Kelleher)

WASHINGTON — A new report names the D.C. region the fittest of the 50 biggest metropolitan areas in the country, based on a combination of health and lifestyle factors, for the second year in a row.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation released the 2015 American Fitness Index data Tuesday.

It’s an annual ranking of the fifty largest metropolitan  areas of the country, using data from a wide range of sources — from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to the Trust for Public Land.

The Washington area is followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul and San Diego. Indianapolis, Indiana, sits at the bottom of the list.

“It’s a very comprehensive index,” says Walter Thompson,  the Georgia State University professor who was the lead author of the annual fitness survey, which is sponsored  by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation.

“The Washington, D.C. area ranks No. 1 on our list for community and economic indicators,” he says.

Those indicators are things the region  does to support fitness, like providing resources for parks and pools, and providing incentives for people to walk or bike to work.

When it comes to indicators related to personal health — like smoking and diet — the region scores a bit lower, coming in at No. 4.    But crunch  the more than 30 indicators together, and D.C. is clearly in first place.

Thompson says one clear example of just how good the D.C. area is, is in the amount of money local governments devote to parks.   The average for the top 25 cities on the American Fitness Index is $100 per capita.   In the D.C. metropolitan region, it’s $300.

In Indianapolis it’s $27 per capita on parks.

The D.C. area, which for the purposes of the study includes the surrounding counties and more, scores high on factors such as a low percentage of people with cardiovascular and heart disease; people who get to work by means other than driving, and a high per-capita number of swimming pools, tennis courts and farmers markets.

The region also topped the list in 2009 and 2010, and placed second to Minneapolis-St. Paul from 2011 to 2013.

But nationally there is good news and bad news in the 8th annual American Fitness Index.  There’s been a drop in the percentage of people who told researchers they had exercised in the last 30 days, fruit consumption is down a bit, and there has been a 7.8 percent increase in the death rate from diabetes from 2014 to 2015.

On the bright side,  Thompson notes child obesity rates are starting to fall, and more people at least seem aware of the benefits of regular exercise.

Click here to view the city-specific data and ranking.

Here’s how the cities rank:


Rank Metropolitan Area Score
1 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 79.6
2 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 75.6*
3 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 75.6*
4 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 72.6
5 Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA 71.4
6 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 71.1
7 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 69.6
8 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 68.5
9 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 68.1
10 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 65.9
11 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 64.8
12 Salt Lake City, UT 61.9
13 Raleigh, NC 60.1
14 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 57.5*
15 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 57.5*
16 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 56.4
17 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 56.3
18 Richmond, VA 55.0
19 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 54.5
20 Austin-Round Rock, TX 54.2
21 Pittsburgh, PA 53.0
22 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 52.5
23 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 52.0
24 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 50.9
25 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 50.5*
26 Kansas City, MO-KS 50.5*
27 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 50.2
28 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 49.4
29 Saint Louis, MO-IL 48.1
30 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 47.5
31 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 47.4
32 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 47.3
33 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 46.8
34 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 44.8
35 Jacksonville, FL 43.5
36 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 42.7
37 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 41.1
38 Columbus, OH 41.0
39 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 39.8
40 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 39.0
41 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 38.8
42 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 38.6
43 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 37.4
44 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 34.5
45 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 33.0
46 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 32.1
47 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 32.0
48 Oklahoma City, OK 29.6
49 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 27.3
50 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 26.


 WTOP’s Paula Wolfson contributed to this report. 

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