For the fourth year running, the Washington, DC area (including DC, northern Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia) has been named the second-healthiest in the nation according to the American College of Sports Medicine‘s (ACSM’s) American Fitness Index (AFI) [Tweet this!]. We’ve been locked in the runner-up position since falling out of first place between 2010 and 2011.
ACSM developed the AFI program in 2007 to provide evidence- and science-based measurement of state health and fitness at the community level.
“We have issued the American Fitness Index each year since 2008 to help health advocates and community leader advocates improve the quality of life in their hometowns,” said Walter Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, chair of the AFI Advisory Board. “As urban areas attract more and more residents, it’s imperative for cities to create a built environment, fund amenities and form policies that get residents active and encourage healthy lifestyles.”
So how did our area get to be number two (out of the top 50 population centers in the country)?
According to the 2013 AFI report (PDF), the DC area meets or performs better than the following national target goals:
- Lower percent of days when mental health was not good during the past 30 days
- Lower death rate for cardiovascular disease
- Lower death rate for diabetes
- Higher percent city land area as parkland
- More farmers’ markets per capita (find one near you!)
- More park units per capita
- More recreation centers per capita
- More swimming pools per capita
- Higher park-related expenditures per capita
- Higher level of state requirement for Physical Education classes
The DC region performed worse than 20% of the target goal in these areas:
- Higher percent with diabetes
- Fewer acres of parkland per capita
- Fewer park playgrounds per capita
- Fewer golf courses per capita
To be fair, most of the community and environmental indicator data (pools, dog parks, ball diamonds, golf courses, etc.) was available only for the city of Washington, DC. If the suburban data was added, we could possibly reach a higher score.
Setting those potentially-skewed factors aside, one area where our region has room for improvement is diabetes. According to this report, about 8% of the population has diabetes. Compare that with the national goal of 6.4%. This study seems to suggest people in our area with diabetes tend to manage their condition well; our death rate per 100,000 for diabetes is just under the goal level.