By Mary Boone
Seattle area residents are fitness devotees who value fresh, local produce.
Those are some of the attributes that helped the metro area win its designation as the 8th healthiest city in the United States with a score of 67.8; Minneapolis came in first with a score of 76.4.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 2012 American Fitness Index, the Seattle metropolitan area outscores the national average when it comes to people walking or biking to work, farmers’ markets per capita and the state requirement for physical education classes. The fitness index reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access, as well as community resources and policies that support physical activity.
Seattle got very high marks for park-related expenditures; Seattle’s investment in parks is $272 per capita, more than twice the index’s goal expenditure of 101.80.
In addition to acknowledging the city’s strengths, the index cites areas in which Seattle ranks below the national target. The Emerald City lost points for having a high rate of death from diabetes, a large percentage of the population with asthma and a higher than average number of “days when mental health was not good.” The survey also reveals that Seattle has fewer swimming pools and fewer acres of parkland per capita than is ideal.
Walt Thompson is a professor of kinesiology and nutrition at Georgia State University and the chair of the ACSM committee that compiled the fitness index. He says people considering a move often look at factors such as home values and quality of schools. He hopes that a city’s health quotient will begin to play a larger role in relocation decisions.
After Minneapolis, the five healthiest U.S. cities, according to the survey, are Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco and Hartford, Conn. Sacramento (No. 6) and Portland, Ore. (No. 7) also edged out Seattle.