Not as if this is the first time somebody or some group has ranked metropolitan areas based on how "fit" they are. But this is the first time that it's been done by a bunch of sports medicine professionals -- researchers and scientists looking at government data rather than some slick consumer magazine counting fast food restaurants.
Released at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting recently, the "American Fitness Index" (AFI) was unveiled not with the goal to allow residents to snigger neener-neener at each other but to help agencies get information to better develop and promote activity.
"The ACSM American Fitness Index is more than a list of cities and their rankings," said AFI advisory board chair Walt Thompson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Georgia State University in Atlanta, during the program's launch in late May. "This report issues a call to action to improve the overall health, fitness and quality of life in the United States."
The AFI data report breaks down several data components related to health and fitness, including an evaluation of community-level data, and offers strengths and weaknesses of each city. In addition to a data report, the AFI is a program designed to improve health, fitness and quality of life in the United States by promoting physical activity, the ACSM said in a statement.
An ACSM research team from the Indiana University School of Family Medicine collected and analyzed the data gleaned from U.S. Census data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), and other existing research data in order to give a scientific, accurate snapshot of the health and fitness status at a metropolitan level.
For this report, the group studied data from the 15 most-populated metro areas in the United States, as well as from Indianapolis since that's where its meeting was held this year and the group has its headquarters.
San Francisco barely beat out Seattle, Wash., based on a scoring system developed by the panel using figures related to healthy lifestyles and physical activity.
The cities and their rankings and scores are:
1. San Francisco, Calif. (Bay Area) 403
2. Seattle, Wash. (Seattle Metro) 401
3. Boston, Mass. (Greater Boston) 370
4. Washington, D.C. (Washington Metro) 369
5. Atlanta, Ga. (Metro Atlanta) 285
6. Philadelphia, Pa. (Delaware Valley) 268
7. Chicago, Ill. (Chicagoland) 267
8. Dallas, Texas (Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex) 261
9. New York City (Tri-State Region) 260
10. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (South Florida Metro) 235
11. Phoenix, Ariz. (Valley of the Sun) 233
12. Indianapolis, Ind. (Greater Indianapolis) 231
13. Houston, Texas (Greater Houston) 209
14. Los Angeles, Calif. (Greater Los Angeles) 208
15. Riverside, Calif. (Inland Empire) n/a
16. Detroit, Mich. (Detroit Metro) 149
To read more about the index, go to www.americanfitnessindex.org.