Friday, May 29, 2009

America's Fittest Cities!

America's Fittest Cities

A new report looks at 30 different measures to determine which cities' residents are healthiest.

When it comes to healthy living, Washington, D.C., is seldom mentioned in the same breath as cities like San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Seattle, all of which are known for their active, health-conscious residents.

But according to a new report, the city of pomp and politics is the healthiest in the nation. In the second annual American Fitness Index (AFI), a publication released by the American College of Sports Medicine, Washington, D.C., edged out Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., Denver, Boston and San Francisco.

Walter Thompson, a professor in the department of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University and chair of the AFI's advisory board, says the annual project is designed to give communities a data-driven picture of local health--and nudge residents in the right direction.

"I believe significant success in improving the fitness of the community can occur when the residents truly value healthy behaviors," says Thompson.

Behind the Numbers

The AFI is sponsored by the WellPoint Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the health benefits company WellPoint. The index ranks 45 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)--a geographical measurement defined by the U.S. Census Bureau used by federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing federal statistics--that include the city and surrounding suburban area. It measures each city's performance on 30 indicators, including acres of parkland, death rate from cardiovascular disease, the number of primary care physicians per capita and the percent of residents who bicycle or walk to work. The metrics were gathered from government and non-profit organizations. (For the complete methodology, visit

According to the index, Washington, D.C., residents are healthier than other Americans for a number of reasons. They have increased access to farmers' markets, at 13 per 1 million residents, compared to a national average of 11. Fewer residents smoke and have diabetes, and nearly 90% have health insurance compared to a national average of 86%.

Still, Thompson was surprised to see the city rank first for the second consecutive year. "[It] is not mentioned in discussions of cities that have a strong fitness orientation," he says. But the data demonstrated only a handful of weaknesses, most of them having to do with the limited number of recreational facilities.

Lagging Behind

While such a shortcoming doesn't hurt D.C.'s ranking, it's par for the course for cities at the bottom of the list, such as Detroit, Oklahoma City and Birmingham, Ala.

Oklahoma City, which placed last, performed poorly in nearly every category. Only 17% of its residents eat five or more fruits and vegetables per day compared to a national MSA average of 24%. The death rate per 100,000 patients with cardiovascular disease was 289 compared to the average of 223.

Though Detroit residents exceeded the national average for physical activity, 40% reported one or more days when they experienced poor mental health, compared to a national average of 34%.

Jim Kauffman, national director of health and well-being for the YMCA of the USA, says the ability to compare such statistics can help community leaders improve in areas where they perform poorly.

Acting accordingly could pay significant dividends. Research has shown that investments in preventative health care can have financial rewards. A 2008 report issued by the nonprofit organization Trust for America's Health found that spending $10 per person on proven programs like smoking cessation and physical activity could save $16 billion annually in health costs.

The money to pay for these programs may come from the fittest city, Washington, D.C. Despite the recession, which has led to municipal budget-cutting in cities across the country, this year's stimulus act includes $650 million for "evidence-based clinical and community-based prevention and wellness strategies."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said that how the stimulus money will be spent or distributed has yet to be determined, but that a decision should be forthcoming in the next several weeks. That's perfect timing for cities at the bottom of the AFI ranking, since they now know where money needs to be spent. It's up to them, however, to take advantage.

"The [index] is meant to build awareness of how residents must take personal responsibility for their health and get involved in their own community," says Thompson.

Top 5 Fittest Cities

1. Washington, D.C.
2. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
3. Denver, Colo.
4. Boston, Mass.
5. San Francisco, Calif.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Time Like Now to Start Fresh

I personally loved this article and couldn't have said it better! --Meagan Lee

If you lack motivation, feel overwhelmed; want to change something in your life – think now.

When we think about everything that has happened, could happen, may or may not happen, we are not in the present moment and not able to enjoy the beauty of the present.

The present moment is a gift (maybe that is why it is called the "present"), and it really is all we have, because if you think about it, things only happen in today – even tomorrow has to become today before something will happen.

Being present allows you to not obsess about what was or what will be – which pretty much keeps us stuck – and allows us to move forward in a very thoughtful, powerful and graceful way.

  • Focus your attention on embracing the present
  • Take the actions that you can take today
  • Relax and let tomorrow be

Your anxiety will abate the minute you realize that in this moment, everything is fine. And that does not discount the fact that you may want some things in your life to change. In fact change comes much more quickly, and easily, when you focus on being in the now. Again:

  • Allow the present to be exactly as it is
  • Take the steps to make the changes you want
  • Relax and accept what is

You do not have to hate the way you look today to change it tomorrow. You can, and should, embrace who you are today and what you look like, and take action to change what you would like to change.

If you want to lose weight, you can eat less and exercise more and like yourself in the process. In fact, you are more likely to stick with your decision to take these steps if you are not beating yourself up along the way.

Imagine getting up in the morning for a 30-minute brisk walk, getting dressed and cursing what you look like – this makes you want to get back under the covers – versus getting out of bed, appreciating your willingness to try, and determination to overcome the desire to stay in bed. This makes you feel like a hero, and going for a walk leaves you feeling invigorated, and like a champion.
It’s a win, win situation - dive in and enjoy.

By Debbie Rocker
Blogged with the Flock Browser