Learning From America’s Fittest Cities


What makes a good city? Is it the restaurants? The public transportation system or the schools? What about how healthy a city is?

For the fifth year in a row, the American College of Sports Medicine has come up with a list of the “fittest” cities in America, also including the “least fit” cities.

This week, I sat down with NewsRadio 1080 KRLD to talk about how Dallas-Fort Worth stacked up against other major metropolitan areas across the country and what goes into making a city “fit”. Listen to the audio here.

Q:  Can you tell us about this annual ranking from the American College of Sports Medicine and whether or not North Texans have something to be proud of this year?

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine publishes its American Fitness Index which ranks 50 major metro areas from most to least fit.

Unfortunately, Dallas ranked 44 out of 50. To add insult to injury, Houston ranked 43. However, we did beat San Antonio, which came in at 48.

The medical experts that crate the list base it on both the citizens personal health behaviors like smoking, exercise rates and chronic health problems, as well as the health amenities the city itself has to offer like parks, recreational facilities, walking/bike trails and farmers’ markets. They also use the information regarding the access to health care.

They gathered this information from surveys conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Q:  Who are the big winners and what can the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex learn from them?

For the 3rd year in a row, Minneapolis-St. Paul was named  “Fittest City in America”. Washington D.C., Portland, San Francisco and Denver rounded out the remainder of the top 5.

Austin was the highest ranking Texas city, which came in at number 11. Dallas, Houston, San Antonio were all in the bottom 10. Oklahoma City came in last.

One of the reasons Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked so high is because of the number of baseball diamonds, playgrounds, golf courses and dog parks as compared to other cities. Researchers found that Minneapolis spends double the amount of money on parks per capita as some of the other cities on the list (more than $225 per resident).

Many of the fittest cities also had total smoking bands in public areas, both indoor and outdoor, as well as greater PE requirements for kids through high school.

Q:  With tight budgets, a lot of people may think that spending money on parks, trails and recreation should be near the bottom of Dallas’ priority list. But the city does have an interest in a healthy population, doesn’t it?

Budgets may be tight, but in the long run, poor health can be costly to the entire city and its economy, so it’s worth the investment. Chronic disease puts a big strain on the city’s health care providers (already a health care worker shortage).

The list was a mixture of both personal and city attributes when it comes to health. However, personal health changes often follow environmental health changes.

About the author

David Winter, MD
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David Winter, MD, is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Signature Medicine – Tom Landry.

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Learning From America’s Fittest Cities