Shot of downtown Atlanta from above

Atlanta ranked 14th healthiest city

The city of Atlanta was ranked the 14th healthiest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2015 American Fitness Index (AFI).

Walt Thompson, associate dean for graduate studies and research in Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development, chair of the AFI Advisory Board and an author of the report, said the annual index incorporates numerous health factors into a city’s ranking, including preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease, health care access and community resources and policies that support physical activity.

Washington, D.C., topped the list for the second year in a row. The U.S. capitol’s high percentage of people bicycling, walking or taking public transit to work, large numbers of farmers markets and recreation centers, and its low death rates for diabetes and cardiovascular disease helped it maintain the No. 1 spot.

The city of Atlanta, which was previously ranked 16th in 2014, has continued to increase the number of parks and recreation spaces, such as the Atlanta Beltline project and the renovation of downtown and midtown parks, and has created more bike lanes to accommodate cyclists, which “contributes to an environment more welcoming to people who want to be physically engaged,” Thompson said.

The city’s challenges tend to fall into the personal health category, with high percentages of residents who have asthma, diabetes or coronary heart disease and fewer people eating two or more fruits a day and meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for aerobic activity.

“We need to create state and local school district policies to include physical education in our middle and high schools and teach kids the benefits of regular exercise,” Thompson said.

For more information about the index, visit http://americanfitnessindex.org.