Twin Cities Top List of Healthiest, Fittest Metros

Among the country's 50 most populous metro areas, Minneapolis and St. Paul together ranked first on the American College of Sports Medicine's list; the ranking is attributed to the area's relatively low smoking rate, above-average percentage of exercisers, and modest rates of chronic health conditions.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul top a new list of the healthiest and fittest metro areas in the United States.

Late last month, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released its “American Fitness Index”-which evaluated the country's 50 most populous metro areas. The Twin Cities, which ranked third last year, earned a 2011 score of 77.2 on a 100-point scale.

The Twin Cities edged out Washington, D.C., which had a score of 76.8 and topped last year's list. The local area also beat out Boston, which ranked second last year and third this year with a score of 69.1.

Indianapolis-based ACSM attributed the Twin Cities' jump to the area's relatively low smoking rate, an above-average percentage of exercising residents, and moderate to low rates of chronic health concerns, like obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

ACSM said that while the Twin Cities reduced its park-related expenditures this year, its percentages of parkland and recreational facilities (excluding swimming pools) are both still above average. Farmers markets in the metro area also increased this year, which points to a trend of healthier eating, the organization said.

However, Walter Thompson, chair of the American Fitness Index advisory board, cautioned in a statement that “although Minneapolis ranked first, there is room for improvement.”

ACSM's metro area rankings and scores measured a variety of preventable health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access, and community resources and policies that support physical activity.

Rounding out the top five cities on the list-following the Twin Cities, Washington, D.C., and Boston-are Portland, Oregon, and Denver.

The lowest-ranked cities on the list, respectively, are Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and Detroit.