Newswise — Together, our organizations are providing valuable data and expert analysis community leaders and policymakers can use to drive better fitness, health and quality of life in their communities. This week we shared results of the 2023 American Fitness Index. Now in its 16th year, the Fitness Index has been a successful partnership between the Elevance Health Foundation and the American College of Sports Medicine® (ACSM).
The Fitness Index ranks the 100 largest cities in the United States based on more than 30 fitness indicators. This provides each city with a detailed view of where they are succeeding and where improvements are needed to ensure they are creating the best environment for health and fitness. Similarly, the Fitness Index shares personal health indicators that individuals can use to assess where improvements can be made in their own lives.
The 2023 Fitness Index shines a bright light on the prevalence of chronic diseases in our country and makes the case for physical activity as an effective way to address them. Six out of 10 American adults have a chronic disease, and four out of 10 have two or more. We also know that chronic disease can contribute to anxiety and depression, exacerbating the growing number of people struggling with mental health. The overall effects of chronic diseases on quality of life are significant, so it is critical that we work together to address this rapidly growing problem.
No city is immune to chronic disease, but fortunately, every city and every person can take positive steps toward creating healthier lifestyles. Physical activity has proven to be an effective tool in reducing the prevalence of many chronic diseases. Getting sufficient physical activity could prevent one in 12 cases of diabetes, one in 15 cases of heart disease and one in 10 premature deaths. We also know that physical activity prevents or reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression that are often elevated in those diagnosed with a chronic disease.
We also know that food is medicine, and consistent access to nutritious food is an essential part of maintaining health. When we provide our bodies with nutritious foods, we are less affected by diet-sensitive chronic conditions. Proper nutrition, fitness, and health are deeply connected, and when we prioritize all three, we can improve our quality of life.
We strongly encourage this report to be used as a call to action. We understand the challenges. The American Fitness Index provides the data and the tools to effect change. Now we need to work together and inspire individuals and communities to take the actions necessary to achieve heathier, more rewarding lifestyles.
We congratulate America’s 2023 Fittest City, Arlington, Virginia, for leading the way and setting an example for all communities, large and small. This is the sixth year in a row that Arlington has been ranked at the top. The community’s consistent devotion to promoting a fitness-friendly environment and healthy living is certainly a model to be followed.
Please review the full report at AmericanFitnessIndex.org to see where your community is ranked and how it compares to Arlington and others. Even if your community is not one of the 100 cities, the Fitness Index offers a road map for all to understand where communities should be and how they can make substantive improvements.
We invite you to join us in our mission to spark meaningful discussion and advance actions that help communities and their residents be stronger, healthier and more physically fit.
Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., Chief Health Officer, Elevance Health
Stella Volpe, Ph.D., RDN, FACSM, ACSM-CEP, chair of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board and ACSM president-elect