Both Minneapolis and St. Paul are among the top 10 “fittest cities,” according to the 2019 American Fitness Index report released Tuesday by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation.
Minneapolis was ranked third, right behind Arlington, Va., and Seattle. St. Paul took seventh place.
Those are impressive rankings, but earlier in this decade, Minneapolis-St. Paul led the list for three years running — although that was when the Fitness Index ranked the 50 largest metropolitan areas rather than the 100 largest cities.
Still, their current high positions on the list mean that both Minneapolis and St. Paul continue to offer more healthy-living resources than most other cities. It also means they have some of the most active and healthiest residents in the country.
“Physical activity is one of the most powerful health-enhancing behaviors for reducing the risks for just about every chronic disease,” said Barbara Ainsworth, chair of the American Fitness Index Board and a regents’ professor in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University, in an interview with the Today Show.
“People who live in healthier cities — that is cities that have better air quality, better places to be safe for walking and cycling, where there are farmers markets for healthier eating, where cities spend more money on improving and maintaining recreational facilities — it makes it much easier for people to be physically active,” she added.
Almost three dozen indicators
The American Fitness Index rankings are based on 33 separate indicators in two major categories: personal health and community/environment.
The personal health category includes behavioral factors such as diet and exercise, as well as rates of asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and other medical conditions. This year, it also includes rates of pedestrian fatalities.
The community/environmental health category includes factors such as air quality (poor air discourages physical activity), “bikeability,” frequency of farmers markets, and number of parks and other public recreational facilities (like basketball hoops, baseball diamonds and swimming pools).
Minneapolis ranked fourth overall in the community/environment category. Compared to the other cities, it had particularly good scores for bikeability (the city topped the list for this indicator), frequency of farmers markets (ranked #2) and the percentage of residents who live within a 10-minute walk to a park. It had less impressive scores — again, compared to the other cities — on air quality and number of public swimming pools and basketball hoops.
In the personal health category, Minneapolis ranked seventh. It scored well (#3 on the list) for lowest rates of high blood pressure and on the percentage of residents consuming two or more fruits per day. It scored less well on the percentage of residents using public transportation to get to work and the percentage of residents with asthma.
St. Paul ranked second in the community/environment category, with particularly high scores for air quality (#10 on the list), the percentage of residents within a 10-minute walk to a park and the number of ball diamonds in those parks. Its lowest scores in this category included the number of swimming pools, tennis courts and farmers markets within the city’s boundaries.
St. Paul scored 27thin the personal health category. Like Minneapolis, its “best” scores in this category included lowest rates of high blood pressure (#9 on the list) and the percentage of residents consuming two or more fruits per day. Among its lower scores (significantly lower than Minneapolis) were those for the percentage of residents using public transportation to get to work and the percentage who bicycle or walk to work.
The top (and bottom) 10
Here is the full list of the 10 “fittest” and 10 “least-fit” cities in this year’s rankings:
- Arlington, VA
- Seattle, WA
- Minneapolis, MN
- San Francisco, CA
- Madison, WI
- Washington, DC
- St. Paul, MN
- Irvine, CA
- Denver, CO
- Portland, OR
- Corpus Christi, TX
- Arlington, TX
- Detroit, MI
- Bakersfield, CA
- Louisville, KY
- Indianapolis, IN
- Toledo, OH
- Tulsa, OK
- North Las Vegas, NV
- Oklahoma City, OK
FMI: You can read the full report — and also use an interactive online tool to compare city to city — on the American Fitness Index website.