The annual ranking from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation measures and compares the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country based on aspects like physical activity levels, rates of chronic disease, smoking levels, and access to public parks and farmer’s markets.
The nation’s capital came out on top, though Minneapolis and Denver did not trail far behind. Landing at the very bottom of the list were Louisville, Oklahoma, and Indianapolis.
The findings may have just as much, or more, to do with urban infrastructure as they do with people’s daily habits, the authors of the study say.
“Cities that ranked near the top of the index have more strengths and resources that support healthy living” — such as public transportation, green spaces, and food resources — “and fewer challenges that hinder it,” the report read. “The opposite is true for cities near the bottom of the index.”
Those factors can likely influence how much daily walking people do and how many fruits and vegetables they eat, thus lowering the risk for negative health risks like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Climate may also play a significant role.
As professor and sports dietitian at Quinnipiac University Dana Angelo White told USA Today, “Denver has so many opportunities for everything from skiing to running to swimming, and temperatures are very seasonable for a large part of the year. If you compare to New Orleans, where the summer months can be oppressively hot and humid, there are arguably less chances to get out and exercise.”
Meanwhile, if you’re one of the 45 million people relocating this year, these may be factors to consider.
Overall, this year’s index saw many positive changes over previous findings. Rates of smoking decreased by 5%, while the number of people who reported exercising within the past 30 days increased by 12%.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week, as well as strength training activities two or more times per week. No matter where you live, it’s always good to keep moving!