Fittest City in the USA? Not Quite – RVA Ranks 21st

For three years, Minneapolis has been ranked the fittest area of the country. I guess all that shivering in the Minnesota winter helps keep their region healthy? But this week, The American College of Sports Medicine released their annual ‘Fit City Index’ and we have a new king. Washington DC has taken the lead! Congrats, DC.

But where’s RVA on the list?

Richmond's health behavior numbers2014

Richmond’s data is in blue relative to target goals in tan.

Richmond ranked just outside the top 20, taking the 21st spot. SO close, Richmond! We’re behind cities like Denver, San Francisco, Hartford, and Austin. Minneapolis also didn’t go far, ranking 2nd just after DC. Richmond did beat out neighboring cities like Virginia Beach and Baltimore, which ranked 22nd and 25th, respectively.

Where are we strong? Where are we weak?

The American College of Sports Medicine uses a system where they weigh regions’ statistical performance across a range of indicators against targets. How’s each region doing relative to how they could be doing?  This is super similar to the system we use for the annual Active RVA Scorecard for the Richmond region. So, where’s Richmond rocking versus where we’re dragging?

The good news – we’re acing a few statistical measures.

Per capita, we’ve got more farmers’ markets than many other cities and we even top the target set by ACSM. Way to shop for veggies, RVA! We also have great numbers for dog parks, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Our fatality rate from diabetes is low relative to other regions. And we have more park playgrounds per capita than in the past. These numbers account not just for the city of Richmond but many of the surrounding counties, from Powhatan to Sussex, New Kent to Caroline.

Room for improvement, y’all.

We’ve got ground to gain on some key stats. We’re just below the target goal for percent of people bike commuting. Recently we broke into a different top 20 list of cities for bike commuting, but it looks like we can do a bit better! The stats also show that too many of us have asthma, suffer from diabetes, and smoke. On the other side of the same coin, not enough of us use public transit or exercise regularly and our cities aren’t spending enough on parks.

What’s next?

It can feel hard to directly impact statistics like percent of the population with asthma or heart disease because these are complex problems, likely with equally complex solutions. But we KNOW that increasing physical activity makes inroads. And the ACSM does a pretty good job of tracking statistics that contribute to complicated issues like obesity and heart disease. For example – that ranking of how much we spend on parks? That, we can change. And the measure of how often we’re biking to work? We know we can increase that by building more lanes and friendly on-street infrastructure. Just recently we saw Richmond add $4.5 million to the budget to do just that. So, progress is palpable.

How about we set a goal?

Crest the top 20 by next year and rocket ourselves to the top 10 by 2020? It will certainly take a coordinated effort, with projects and programs that reach thousands of our neighbors. But we’ve got great partners for this. Your schools and workplaces are a great place to start. Our roads and parks are more areas we can focus on. And this isn’t just for bragging rights. Sure, we’d love to best DC, but more than anything we want to see all Richmonders living healthier and getting active.

Richmond's built env AFI numbers2014

The ACSM ranked Richmond’s infrastructure and facilities(in blue) relative to target goals (in tan).