The Fittest City in the United States

USA, Columbia, Washington DC, Capitol Building
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The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has released it ninth annual American Fitness Index® (AFI), ranking the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States in terms of “fitness,” as defined by a variety of exercise options and low rates of smoking, obesity and diabetes.

The city that topped the list for the third year in a row? The nation’s capital: Washington, DC.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metro Area

For AFI purposes, this includes the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, which received the highest score on the list, 79.6.

Any tourist who visits the nation’s capital area will immediately notice all the walking that is so often required to get from point A to point B around the city, especially when visiting the museums and monuments on the National Mall.

According to the AFI report, 73% of DC-area residents engaged in physical activity or exercise over the prior 30 days (although only 24% are meeting aerobic activity guidelines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Lots of Public Transportation Options

Additionally, the DC metro area is well known for its excellent subway system, known simply as the Metro. Supplementing this is a full bus service via Metrobus. According to the website of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority’s website, Metrobus provides more than 400,000 trips each weekday and serves 11,500 bus stops in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

These public transportation options are important, because research has shown that making your daily commute by public transportation reduces body mass index (BMI) and obesity.

According to the AFI report, DC-area residents were more likely to use public transportation to get to work.

Healthy Personal Habits

The report also found that residents of the nation’s capital were more likely to consume several servings of fruits and veggies per day, and they were less likely to be current smokers.

Over half of the area’s residents were reported to be in “excellent or very good health.” Only a very low percentage (less than 3%) of area residents are living with angina or coronary heart disease.

Community Health

The DC area ranked particularly high in its community health score, placing it at the top of the list for community health rankings.

The report notes that a variety of recreational facilities exist in the area, including park playgrounds, dog parks, swimming pools, recreational centers, and tennis courts. Fully 95% of DC-area residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park.

In addition, the DC community exceeded target goals for total park expenditures per resident.

Exercise Goals

In a statement, the ACSM noted that “Because physical inactivity has become an epidemic in the U.S., ACSM encourages Americans to exercise for at least 30 minutes and participate in 10 minutes of stretching and light muscle training five days a week.”

The ACSM further stated that “modeling healthy behavior by reducing sedentary time, incorporating activity into the weekday schedule, joining walking clubs, setting goals and involving family and friends can improve fitness, reduce the risk of chronic disease and enhance quality of life.”

Wondering where your city ranks? Check out the full list at


The American Fitness Index 2015 Report. Accessed online at on May 27, 2015.

Flint E, Cummins S, Sacker A. Associations between active commuting, body fat, and body mass index: population based, cross sectional study in the United Kingdom. BMJ 2014;349:g4887.

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