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Twin Cities: Fittest cities in the USA

photo courtesy: Mulad via flickr

The Twin Cities has a greenway, or bike highway, that runs through Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Go ahead Minneapolis-St. Paul, give yourselves a pat on the back. You deserve it. For the third year in a row the Twin Cities were ranked as the healthiest, fittest cities in the USA.

Yes, a “boo-yah” may be appropriate.

According to USA Today, Minneapolis-St. Paul “out-fit” the other top fit cities – Washington, D.C., Portland, San Francisco and Denver – in an analysis of the fitness levels of residents in the 50 most populated metropolitan areas in the USA.

To arrive at the rankings, the annual American Fitness Index from the American College of Sports Medicine looked at a number of health behaviors, including:

  • Smoking rates
  • Exercise among residents
  • Obesity rates
  • Chronic health problems
  • Access to health care

The Index also examined environmental characteristics, such as:

  • Availability of parks
  • Recreational facilities
  • Walking trails
  • Farmers’ markets

Nutritional and physical activity epidemiologist Mark Pereira, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health said this is good news for cities that invest in parks, rec leagues, and other healthy environmental characteristics.

“There’s a positive relationship between cities that put funding into healthy environmental factors and those with higher fitness indexes,” said Pereira. “However, all top ranking cities still have health disparities and areas without access to activity resources and fitness facilities. We can’t just say, ‘We’re great! We’re done!’ There’s still work to do.”

Pereira went on to say that even though the Twin Cities ranked at the top of this analysis, the city still has work to do within its rates of obesity, which is also a commonality among some of the lower-ranking cities.

The ranking recently had Health Talk wondering: what kind of behaviors common in “fit” cities can be emulated in areas that may not have some of the healthy environmental characteristics found in other places?  What about people who live in cities with fewer healthy activities – how can they find ways to incorporate healthy behavior into their day-to-day lives?

“Easing into physical activity can be tough, but making it part of the routine is important,” said Beth Lewis, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Kinesiology who researches various motivational strategies to make physical activity a part of everyday life. “It doesn’t have to be going to the gym, but it should be added to the calendar like any other appointment.”

Examples of easy ways to add physical activity include:

  • Taking the stairs when available
  • Scheduling 10 minutes for a walk
  • Writing down an exercise routine ahead of time
  • Adding “meeting reminders” to get up and move
  • Parking far away and walking to your destination when possible

Lewis went on to say the benefits of physical activity are plentiful, including a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, anxiety and stress.

Whether the goal is to de-crown the Twin Cities or just managing stress levels, taking simple steps towards fitness can impact a person’s lifestyle, wherever they live.

Editors note: Both Lewis and Pereira pointed out that Minneapolis-St. Paul may be the fittest city, but the Twin Cities are also some of the coldest. The takeaway? Fitness is a lifestyle choice that can be made in all climates, even if spring temps are hovering below 50 degrees.

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