Annual American Fitness Index Expands to Rank 100 Cities Arlington, Va. is New #1 ‘Fit City’

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Annual American Fitness Index Expands to Rank 100 Cities Arlington, Va. is New #1 ‘Fit City’

May 15, 2018

Only 22 percent of Americans meet aerobic and strength activity levels

Check out the 2018 Rankings

Indianapolis (May 15, 2018) – Arlington, Va., edged out Minneapolis, Minn., for the coveted “most fit city in America” title by only half a point in the annual ACSM American Fitness Index Ranking (Fitness Index). Arlington’s neighbor, Washington, D.C., came in third, 3.7 points behind.

The 11th annual Fitness Index was released today by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc. For the first time, the ACSM Fitness Index evaluated America’s 100 largest cities using 33 health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure indicators. Previously,  the Fitness Index measured evidence-based indicators for the 50 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA).

In 2017, the Minneapolis-St. Paul MSA won the crown. With the twin cities split, St. Paul  now ranks #8 in the 2018 Fitness Index. Madison, Wis., Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., and Denver, Colo. finished fourth through seventh, respectively, in the 2018 Fitness Index ranking. 

Arlington residents were found to have the lowest smoking rate and highest reports of very good or excellent health compared to the other 99 communities in the Fitness Index. The suburban Virginia community’s balance of both healthy behaviors and community infrastructure earned it the #1 rank with a score of 77.7. While Arlington ranked #4 in personal health and #5 in community indicators, the balance of its combined scores was enough to edge #2-ranked Minneapolis’ overall score of 77.2. (The ACSM American Fitness Index is available in its entirety at  Visit the website to compare city rankings, download resources and request assistance for your city.)

“Obesity rates have climbed to 40 percent and related medical costs are exceeding $147 billion yearly,” said Barbara Ainsworth, Ph.D., chair of the American Fitness Index Board and a Regents’ professor in the Exercise Science and Health Promotion Program in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University. “Along with dietary changes, exercise is one of the best ways people can turn this around; unfortunately, only 22 percent of Americans are meeting national physical activity guidelines. Through the expanded Fitness Index rankings, more citizens and government leaders will be informed and motivated in developing strategies to improve health and fitness opportunities and modify the infrastructures to support them.”

 “We are pleased to see the results of cities that are incorporating healthier strategies into their planning to improve the walkability and bikeabilty of their communities, which helps improve physical activity of their residents,” said Craig Samitt, M.D., chief clinical officer at Anthem. “By creating greater access to public health research, including the Fitness Index rankings we are proud to sponsor, we know we are fostering a culture of physical activity to improve health and fitness, prevent disease and disability, and enhance the quality life for all Americans.” 

Overall findings from the 2018 Fitness Index rankings included:

  • 77.5% of adults in all Fitness Index cities were physically active in the previous month, with only 51.5% meeting aerobic activity guidelines and 22.2% meeting both strength and aerobic guidelines

  • The average smoking rate across all cities was 15%, the highest was 25.7% (all 16 California cities in the Fitness Index averaged only 10.6%)

  • 35% of residents in all cities reported their mental health was not good in the past 30 days (the top 25 cities averaged 35.8% reporting poor mental health in the past 30 days, and the highest city was 44.1%)

  • 65.4% of residents in all cities indicated getting at least seven or more hours of sleep per night

  • 30% of adults reported eating at least two servings of fruit per day, while only 18% indicated eating three or more servings of vegetables per day

  • Averages among all cities were 4.6% walking or biking to work, and 65.7% located within a 10-minute walk of a park

At the community level, the Fitness Index has been used as an assessment and evaluation tool to educate community leaders on the importance of key indicators of physical activity. Leaders can then focus on policy, systems and environmental change strategies that are evidence-based and create sustainability for their community.