Surprise: Philly Is Getting Fitter

Philadelphia ekes out a top-25 ranking in 2012 American Fitness Index.

The Philly area has snuck into the top half of the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2012 American Fitness Index (AFI) rankings for the first time since the measurements began in 2008. Philadelphia and the surrounding ‘burbs come in at number 24 out of 50 in the index, an annual ranking of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas by overall fitness level.

Thanks to an above average percentage of the Philadelphians riding bikes to work, as well as a good amount of farmers markets, recreation centers, and swimming pools per capita, our region shot up three spots, from 27 to 24 in the rankings from 2011 to 2012. A decrease in rates of obesity, smoking, and coronary heart disease, although not yet on par with the ACSM’s targets, didn’t hurt, either.

The goal of the index is to illustrate the unique attributes of each city in developing community fitness, which, according to the ACSM, is a result of local resources and personal choice, so a variety of factors are taken into account when ranking the cities. The ACSM uses city and government data, such as information collected by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Census.

The index includes a list of areas of excellence and priority areas for each city, highlighting strengths and weaknesses. Local crime rates, economic conditions, numbers of golf courses and tennis courts, and amount of vegetables a resident consumes in a day are all considered, among many other factors.

At the top of the list was Minneapolis, a city with nearly half of the diabetes prevalence in Philadelphia. Interestingly, we in Philly tend to eat more veggies than those Minnesotans, but their above average physical activity levels and low rates of cardiovascular disease put them at number one.

And at the bottom was Oklahoma City. Ranked the lowest at 50, the metropolitan area had a fairly grim report with an exceedingly high population of smokers and prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

As for Philadelphia, the area could use some more golf courses, according to the index. Levels of asthma, diabetes, and obesity are still troubling. Park playgrounds and designated dog parks are also included as challenge areas for the city. We need more, but where do we put them?

>> See also: We Need a Fitness Court, Philly