The Hartford region ranks as the 13th “fittest” metropolitan area in the nation, according to a nationwide fitness index developed by the American College of Sports Medicine.  Hartford ranked 9th a year ago and 11th in 2015 in the ACSM American Fitness Index, now in its tenth year.

The top 10 “fittest” metropolitan areas are Minneapolis, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Boston, Denver, Portland, Salt Lake City and San Diego. The top seven cities in the 2017 AFI are between 4-13 percentage points ahead of the rest of the pack, principally related to lower rates of smoking and cardiovascular disease deaths and higher reported physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and per capita park expenditures in their communities.

The index publication is supported by the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation.  It is a scientific snapshot of the health and fitness status at a metropolitan level using data made up of personal health, community and environmental factors.

The United States Census Bureau defines the Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as containing 54 towns of Hartford County, Tolland County, and Middlesex County. The 2015 population estimate for the MSA is 1,211,324 and is ranked as the 47th largest metropolitan area by population in the United States

Fifty regions were rated, with the Hartford MSA the only region in Connecticut.  Boston-Cambridge-Newton ranked 6th and Providence-Warwick ranked 31st, among the New England states.

The Hartford region’s total score has ranked among the top 12 metropolitan areas since 2009, until this year. Strengths include a high number of farmers’ markets per resident, a high percent of parkland as city land area, as well as a high number of recreational facilities per resident, including ball diamonds, golf courses, park units and recreation centers.

The region’s personal health rank was 13; its community/environmental indicators rank was 25, leading to an overall ranking of 13th.  The analysis points to “Areas of Excellence,” in the region, including:

  • Lower death rate for diabetes
  • Higher percentage of parkland as city land area
  • More farmers’ markets per capita
  • Higher Walk Score® (75% report engaging in physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days)
  • More ball diamonds and basketball hoops per capita
  • More recreation centers per capita
  • More swimming pools per capita

Nationally, there were numerous positive shifts during the last year:

  • 0% increase in the percent who met the recommendations for aerobic and strength in the last 30 days
  • 5% drop in the percent with diagnosed angina or coronary heart disease
  • 9% increase in walkability scores
  • 9% increase in the percent who live within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • 7% increase in the total park expenditures per capita
  • 0% increase in the number of recreation centers per 20,000 residents

“Our ultimate goal is to offer individuals, families and communities trusted resources that can help them assess, plan and implement policies that promote positive health outcomes,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FASCM, who chairs the AFI Advisory Board and is president-elect of ACSM.

The 2017 AFI report also revealed some shortcomings over the past year:

  • 7% increase in the rate of diabetes deaths
  • 3% reduction in the percent of residents biking or walking to work
  • 2% decrease in the percent of individuals eating the recommended number of servings of fruit
  • 6% reduction in the number of tennis courts per 10,000 residents

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 50,000 international, national and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. The Anthem Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of Anthem, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Anthem, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve, including Connecticut.

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