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5 reasons why NYC is apparently not the country’s healthiest city


healthy city rankingsIf you purposefully walk to the Union Square farmers market to get your wheatgrass on the way home from CrossFit twice a week, pass 18 juice bars on your way to work in the morning, or you can’t eat at Hu Kitchen without recognizing at least 11 fitness and yoga instructors, this may come as a surprise: New York City is not all that healthy.

Well, at least according to the recently-released American College of Sports Medicine’s Fitness Index Report for 2015. It ranked the country’s largest metro areas in terms of healthiness—and New York City came in at 24 out of 50.

Washington, DC, topped the list, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul and San Diego, while Memphis and Indianapolis were ranked the least healthy.

Some things to consider: New York’s metro area included 20 million people (more than double the amount in any other metro area!) spread out across the five boroughs, as well as Long Island, Westchester, Rockland and Orange Counties, and northern New Jersey, including Newark and Jersey City, so the diversity of the population is pretty massive.

What else accounts for how we’re only healthier than half the other areas ranked? Here are five simple takeaways to consider before you start packing up your fitness fashion closet and heading to the District:

1. First, the bad news: we don’t exercise enough. The fitness boom you’ve been taking part in is clearly only touching an elite subset of people. Less than a quarter of our population is meeting CDC guidelines for aerobic and strength activity, and we lag behind in terms of how many people have worked out in the last 30 days (65.5 percent).

2. Now, the really bad news: chronic disease. New York has higher than average rates of asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

3. We’re not exactly flush with golf courses. Much of the survey considered accessibility to large, open spaces, like golf courses, swimming pools, and tennis courts, which, predictably, New York lost points for. (In our defense though, has the ACSM seen how we use park benches for tricep dips and lunge all over the sidewalks? Is golf really healthier than that?)

4. But we’ve got lots of parks and farmers markets. It may be called the concrete jungle, but we’ve got a higher percentage of city area devoted to parks than most, and 96 percent of the population lives within a 10-minute walk to a park. New York also has way more farmers markets than the average metro area. (In fact, the number of markets per one million people more than doubled, from 6.6 in 2009 to 18.1 in 2015.)

5. We travel healthy. Huge numbers of New Yorkers bike to work and take public transit (but we didn’t need to tell you that…), and we walk more than basically everyone. Take that, Twin Cities. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information, visit www.americanfitnessindex.org