I’ve been mulling over a report that came out in late May from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the 2014 American Fitness Index. It’s an annual report that measures the “health and community fitness” in America’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. The report is intended to help city leaders and organizations understand strengths and shortcomings so that they (and we) can “advocate for policy changes and investments necessary to make improvements.”
It’s a high-quality study because of its “holistic” view of each city’s health. It examines each city’s healthy behaviors, its chronic health problems, its supportive community infrastructure (its built environment such as parkland, farmers’ markets, walking/bicycling commuters, etc.) and its recreational facilities. It even looks at physical education in schools and each city’s park-related expenditures.
From a San Antonio perspective, the report, available at www.americanfitnessindex.org, gives all of us a lot to ponder. Of the 50 municipal areas evaluated, San Antonio (which includes New Braunfels) ranks 45th with a total score of 35.6 (out of 100). That’s way down a list topped by Washington, D.C. (77.3), Minneapolis-St Paul (73.5) and Portland, Oregon (72.1). We are sandwiched between Birmingham (35.9) and Nashville (32.5). Of Texas cities rated, San Antonio ranks at the bottom – Austin ranks 14th (60.6); Houston ranks 35th (44.0); and Dallas-Fort Worth ranks 38th (42.6).
San Antonio’s place in the rankings isn’t a shock; we’re accustomed to being at the bottom of these kinds of lists. But what these lists don’t show are the tremendous positive changes taking place. Everywhere I look I see signs of a fitter future. Where? On area hike and bike trails, which are usually busy on weekend (and most weekday) mornings and evenings. In area parks, which are brimming with people walking, running, hiking, cycling, etc. The city’s Fitness in the Park program (highlighted on page 11) offers more free fitness classes throughout the city in local parks and community centers than ever (www.sanantonio.gov/parksandrec for a schedule of classes). Health-focused businesses are booming in the city, and we have more parkland and more miles of paved hike and bike trails than we’ve ever had, with more coming!
Add to that the explosive growth of healthy eating options – juicer bars and vegetarian restaurants, raw food eateries, new farmers markets, and established restaurants offering gluten-free and “light” menu options – and it’s easy to see that the once “fattest” city in America is now moving in the right direction.
What can you do?
1. Be part of this huge momentum shift. Participate in active living activities throughout the city. It’s fun, and healthy!
2. Patronize local businesses and restaurants that care about your health and about the community. They need your support!
3. Continue to pick up this magazine each month – it’s where you’ll find numerous connection points and ways to participate.
4. Speak up for positive, healthful changes. Participate in town halls and neighborhood meetings to give your input on community and infrastructure (built environment) improvements.
It’s an amazing time to be part of the positive change happening throughout our beautiful city. A transformation is under way, and we’re all part of it.
Enjoy a blessed August!
Joel Shuler, Publisher