For most of last year, Americans were barred from gyms and other indoor sports venues because covid-19 was rampant and leaders locked in group gatherings.
According to the annual ranking of the most suitable cities in the United States released on Tuesday, the choice of Americans to stay healthy during a pandemic depends on their geographical location. Those living in communities with walkable neighborhoods, trails and bike paths have more ways to stay active and avoid high blood pressure, obesity or heart disease.
The American College of sports medicine and the National Anthem foundation released the annual American fitness index, ranking the 100 most populous cities in the United States based on 34 variables of personal health behavior, results and community indicators such as air quality and walkability. The report aims to assess the strengths and resources of the community to support a healthy life and the obstacles that prevent people from staying healthy.
Stella L. Volpe, chairman of the American fitness index Advisory Committee, said that during a pandemic, communities with safe and open spaces where people can exercise, walk, ride a bike or play ball perform better and remain active.
“Even during the blockade, physical activity increases when people feel safe or can do so,” Volpe said. “It’s safe for people to go out for a walk with their families and keep a distance.”
Stella Volpe, President of the American fitness index
Nearly 86% of adults reported that Arlington, Virginia, which had exercised in the past month, was rated as the most suitable city in the United States for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Minneapolis; Seattle; Denver; And Madison, Wisconsin.
Oklahoma City’s fitness ranks last among the 100 most populous cities in the United States. Fifth from bottom: Tulsa, Oklahoma; North Las Vegas, Nevada; Indianapolis; And Wichita, Kansas.
The report found that most Americans did not meet the Centers for Disease Control and prevention recommendations for 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week and muscle strengthening twice a week.
Less than a quarter of adults reported any exercise in the past month. In big cities, about a third of adults are obese and 14% smoke, the report said.
Cleveland ranked last in sleep quality; St. Louis has the highest levels of food insecurity
Released for 14 years, this year’s health ranking includes two new measures – sleep quality and food insecurity, both of which are sources of stress for families and individuals during the pandemic.
Walp said the report highlighted sleep as one of four personal health behaviors to prevent chronic diseases. Others maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and don’t smoke. The report listed drinking as another personal health behavior, but it was not included in the comprehensive ranking of the community.
In the 100 largest cities, more than a third of Americans do not get enough sleep for seven hours or more a day.
In Lubbock, about 78% of residents get enough sleep every day, which makes Texas cities score the highest on quality sleep measures. Cleveland ranked last in terms of sleep, with only 53% of residents getting enough sleep, the report said.
As families adapt to working from home and going to school, many Americans struggle with sleep during the pandemic. Lauren hale, President of the National Sleep Foundation, said lack of sleep was associated with adverse health effects such as slowing metabolism, poor heart health, obesity and cancer, and lack of productivity and attention.
“If you have severe stress like a pandemic that disrupts everything in your life, it may have a negative impact on your sleep,” said hale, a professor of public health at Stony Brook University
But Hale says many Americans who work remotely sleep more because they avoid long commutes and spend less time on morning routines. For those Americans, the pandemic is calm.
“People go to bed and get up late, but overall they sleep more,” Hale said. But “due to a series of anxiety caused by the pandemic, some people’s insomnia symptoms have increased.”
Walpe said food insecurity is a key indicator of community health because families without reliable sources of nutritious food are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases. Walpe said that due to poverty and unemployment, more than 50 million Americans will face food insecurity in 2020, which is a national challenge.
People living in poorer communities may not have nearby grocery stores and must rely on convenience stores that do not store fresh fruits and vegetables, Volpe said.
St. Louis is listed as the city with the highest degree of food insecurity, and 18.2% of residents are worried about obtaining nutritious food. New Orleans and Baltimore have slightly lower rates of food insecurity.
Meredith Knopp, President and CEO of the St. Louis regional food bank, said her organization coordinated with dozens of community partners to distribute millions of free meals to people in need.
Knoop said that as many as 70% of the people her organization served last year sought help for the first time. Most have returned to work and fewer people are now seeking help, but Knoop says community assistance remains crucial. Community interest in food aid has waned for a decade after the great depression, she said.
“We’re trying to make sure people don’t need 10 years to get back on their feet,” Knoop said.