Seattleites love the outdoors and physical activity appears to be paying dividends as the bustling tech-driven community ranks as the second-fittest city in the nation based on a study of the nation’s 100 largest cities that assessed 33 health and fitness indicators.
Ranking first in the study, dubbed the 2019 American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM’s) American Fitness Index, is Arlington, Virginia. Rounding out the top five and following Seattle’s second-place showing are Minneapolis, San Francisco and Madison, Wisconsin.
“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 ACSM report states. “The opposite is true for cities near the bottom of the rankings.”
The report says fewer than a quarter of U.S. adults meet minimum physical activity guidelines and some 40% are considered obese. The direct and indirect costs of physical inactivity exceed $27 billion annually, according to the report, with nearly half of those health-related costs covered by the public sector.
“Physical activity isn’t only good for health; it’s good for a city’s bottom line,” the ACMS report states. “There is strong evidence of significant economic benefits of local policies and city planning that support physical activity, walkability and bikeability. Well-designed cities experience increased home values, retail activity as well as business and job growth.”
Beyond assessing personal health behaviors in cities, such as exercise patterns, diet, smoking and health status, the study also examines community indicators ― such as air quality, bike and walk scores, parks per 10,000 residents and recreational facilities.
Seattle earned a No. 3 ranking on the personal-health measures and a No. 9 ranking with respect to the community and environmental measures, for an overall No. 2 rank among the nation’s 100 largest cities. The five cities ranking at the bottom of the list, in descending order, are Indianapolis; Toledo, Ohio; Tulsa, Oklahoma; North Las Vegas (Las Vegas was ranked 85th); and Oklahoma City.
On the West Coast, the lowest-ranked city was Fresno, California, at 64th on the list. Irvine, California, 8th; and Portland, Oregon, 10th, were the only other West Coast cities to rank in the top 10.