What does it take to be America’s fittest city in 2021? Ask residents of Arlington, Virginia, the city that has earned the title of America’s Fittest City for the fourth year in a row according to the American Fitness Index, compiled by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem foundation.
The rankings are calculated using 34 indicators of a city’s fitness, including health of residents—including factors such as the percentage of people who meet aerobic and strength activity guidelines, consume more than two fruits and three vegetables a day, have health conditions including diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease and angina—and the health of the community and environment, meaning how well the city helps its residents live a healthy lifestyle. That includes the city’s air quality, access to parks, recreational facilities, and safe places to walk.
This year, for the first time, the rankings recognized two factors with a huge impact on human health: food insecurity and sleep.
Food insecurity means that all members of a household at all times don’t necessarily have access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods or have the ability to acquire those foods. (So, for instance, issues like food deserts in a city will make its ranking lower in this variable.)
The rankings also factored in the percentage of the city’s population that reported getting seven or more hours of sleep a night.
America’s fittest cities in 2021:
The index relies on public data, much of which was collected prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the report points out that “the effects of the pandemic on personal health behaviors and outcomes will not be fully understood for several years.” It also recognizes that cities are strapped for funds “and parks and recreation may not seem like high priorities in downturns. However there are real economic benefits to neighborhood investments especially those focused on increasing local walkability and bikeability.”
But many of the factors, like sleep, are under your control. To improve yours, check out the tips here, or consider asking someone who lives in one of the top cities for getting a healthy amount of sleep (four of them in Texas)
Top cities for healthy sleep
To find out where your city ranks and how it compares to others in all of the ways they’re measured, use the online city comparison tool. And to improve your own health metrics, discover the best ways to eat well here, and get new inspiration, form checks, moves, and routines for meeting aerobic and strength guidelines here.
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