Atlanta skyline

Atlanta ranks 16 on list of top 50 healthiest cities

The city of Atlanta was ranked the 16th healthiest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2014 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 this year, ranking just above Minneapolis-St. Paul, which held the top spot for the last three years. 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 reach the No. 1 spot.

The city of Atlanta, which was previously ranked 21st in 2012 and 2013, has seen an increase in the number of parks and recreation spaces, such as the Atlanta Beltline project and the renovation of downtown and midtown parks, which likely helped it jump in the rankings.

Atlanta does have some room to improve, though. Its high percentages of people who smoke, have diabetes and asthma impacted its score, as well as its low percentage of residents taking public transportation to work and eating more than two fruits a day.

“We still need greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables by inviting more farmers markets into the city,” Thompson said. “We need to get physical education back into our middle and high schools by requiring that each student get 30 minutes of structured physical activity every day, and we should consider broadening smoking bans.”

For more information about the index, visit