Physical fitness and overall health are topics of constant discussion in America. These themes appear daily in newspapers, nightly on primetime television and the obesity crisis has even caught the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama. Most agree it’s time for a change, but solutions don’t come at the snap of fervent fingers and for many of our least fit cities, obesity and health hazards are tightly intertwined with tradition.
Cities like New Orleans are famous for their unique cuisine, music and party culture. But the same things that make these cities so notorious also help to place them among the least fit in America.
Tradition isn’t the only thing linking the cities on our list; high poverty rates were common, as they limited recreation opportunities, time for fitness and made healthy food options too costly for families. Higher rates of smoking and stressed out populations were less physically fit and often weighed more than is considered healthy. And, somewhat surprisingly, the availability of parks and other outdoor recreation outlets couldn’t keep some of these cities off the list.
The similarities tell part of the story, but each city has its own ranking and reason behind the ranking.
Our list of the least fit cities is not simply a compilation of the highest rates of obesity—though that was one of the 15 factors. Other factors we considered included: body weight ratios, general health status, cholesterol, blood pressure, stress level, well-being index, exercise frequency, exercise type and whether each city met national fitness guidelines, among others. We reached our final list of the least fit cities through research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and the American College of Sports Medicine's Fitness Index.