First in fitness

The Twin Cities ranks as the No. 1 fittest, healthiest metro area in the nation

In terms of the nation's fittest, healthiest cities, the Twin Cities metropolitan statistical area (MSA) ranks No. 1 in the nation. That's according to the results of the annual American Fitness Index, released in late May by the American College of Sports Medicine. Begun in 2008, the index compares the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas.

One reason for the Twin Cities area's consistently high ranking stems from what would appear to be common sense: situating physical-activity resources, such as walking and biking trails, in places that are easy for the population to access. Minneapolis in particular is noted for this, and it also spends significantly more than most cities on parks.

The area excels in the number of ball diamonds, dog parks, playgrounds, golf courses, farmers markets, recreation centers, and tennis courts per capita. It falls short in the number of swimming pools, but given the winters, that can perhaps be forgiven. The area enjoys a higher percentage of its population bicycling or walking to work and being physically active, or at least moderately so. Meanwhile, death rates for diabetes and cardiovascular disease are lower.

In the research, the Twin Cities MSA included a little over a dozen counties, including a few in Wisconsin. The other top metro areas were Washington, D.C., Portland, San Francisco, and Denver. Oklahoma City fared the worst.

More results from the American Fitness Index can be found at americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.