story by Claire Miller
The city of Atlanta has been ranked the 20th healthiest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2018 American Fitness Index (AFI).
College of Education & Human Development Associate Dean Walt Thompson, who also serves as an AFI Advisory Board member and an author of the report, said the annual index incorporates numerous health factors into a city’s ranking, including preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease, health care access and community resources and policies that support physical activity.
Thompson also noted that this year, the AFI increased its scope from 50 metro areas to 100, making Atlanta’s position in the top 20 an impressive feat. “No one would expect that of a Southeastern city,” he said.
Arlington, Va., edged out Minneapolis, Minn., to take the top spot on this year’s index. Arlington boasts the lowest smoking rate and the highest reports of very good or excellent health compared to the other 99 metro areas evaluated in 2018.
Atlanta was previously ranked 17th in 2017 and has made efforts to improve its health by adding more bike lanes and working to complete the BeltLine project. The AFI also noted small increases in the percentage of residents who exercised in the last 30 days, consumed two or more fruits a day and slept seven or more hours each night.
The city continues to struggle with obesity and high blood pressure, but Thompson said Atlanta is taking steps to combat these issues.
“We still have a high rate of obesity in the state of Georgia and in Atlanta, but our community assets are helping to balance those out,” he said. “If someone wants to be healthy and fit, it’s natural for them to wonder if their community supports that goal. And in Atlanta, the answer is yes.”
For more information about the index, visit www.americanfitnessindex.org.