Men's Fitness magazine may be dissing your city in its fifth-annual America's Fattest Cities story. But we don't see this list so much as an insult, but rather as a call to arms for metro areas to jump into the fray to help prevent the continued climb of obesity rates. Here's how the annual survey works: The magazine picks the largest cities based on latest census figures, then gives ratings to each based on a mix of hard science (mortality data or percentage of overweight based on government figures), real-world factors (such as climate, trails, parks, numbers of clubs and the like), plus factors that the magazine says "provide insight into the attitude and behavior of the locals, including fruit and vegetable consumption, TV watching statistics, and junk-food proliferation." Put all that together and it comes up with its top 20 list of fittest and fattest.
With a drumroll that is more of a thud, the fattest cities, from the fattest to the, well, still fat, but not as bad: Houston, Texas; Chicago; Detroit; Philadelphia; St. Louis, Mo.; Cleveland, Ohio; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas (Texas again); Charlotte, N.C.; New Orleans, La. (gotta go for gumbo); Indianapolis, Ind.; San Antonio (oops, Texas again); Phoenix, Ariz.; New York (the BIG apple); Fort Worth (yikes, Texas again); El Paso (whoa, Lone Star state, yet again); Las Vegas, Nev.; Mesa, Ariz.; and Baltimore, Md.
Another drum roll for the fittest from the No. 1 most fit on down: Honolulu; Seattle, Wash.; San Francisco; Colorado Springs, Colo.; San Diego, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Denver, Colo.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Tucson, Ariz.; Sacramento, Calif.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Boston, Mass. (must be all those marthoners); Austin, Texas; Omaha, Neb.; Oakland, Calif.; Wichita, Kan.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Jacksonville, Fla.; San Jose, Calif. (unemployed dot-commers with time on their hands?); and Long Beach, Calif.
What you'll notice: Weather is in many cases very predictive. If the climate is milder -- like in California with six entries for most fit -- it's just easier to get outside and do things that help you stay fit. But mountains also help, even if that means snow (note two Colorado towns as fit ones). Food customs play a large role too, if you consider that Texas has five fattest towns (!). That's the state where if you eat a 5-pound steak, it's free. (No, reallyâ€¦) But perhaps what this also means is that fitness industry companies and clubs ought to take a longer and harder look at cities where fatness still rules since there could be higher rewards by making a full run at these areasâ€¦with the right programs. To read more about the survey and see past years' lists, go to: www.mensfitness.com/mens/superfeat/010203/ranking.html