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Buffalo steps up in latest national fitness ranking

Buffalo finds itself in the middle of the pack in the latest ranking of community fitness status among the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

The American College of Sport Medicine’s American Fitness Index places the Western New York region 23rd, just behind Atlanta and Providence, R.I., and just ahead of New York City and Philadelphia.

"Buffalo comes out pretty good in these kinds of surveys," said Philip L. Haberstro, executive director of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo & Western New York, a nonprofit whose mission is to help make the region a healthier place to live.

Haberstro said he thinks that has lots to do with the region’s Olmsted parks, as well as Rails to Trails "linear parks" that include one in the Town of Tonawanda and an emerging one in North Buffalo.

The American College of Sport Medicine compared its sixth annual report, released today, to an annual physical or wellness exam. It evaluates prevention, chronic disease levels, health care access and community resources and policies that encourage healthy living.

Buffalo Niagara scored 53.2, out of 100 possible points, in the latest report, up two spots from last year, when it scored of 49.

Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked first for the third straight year, with a score of 76.4; Detroit and a host of Southern metro areas were in the bottom 10, with Oklahoma City, Okla., ranked last.

According to the report, Buffalo Niagara was 27th on "personal health indicators" related to health behaviors, chronic conditions and health care access and ranked 19th on "community/environmental indicators" that include parks, recreation, physical education options and primary health care workers.

"We have issued the American Fitness Index each year since 2008 to help health advocates and community leaders improve the quality of life in their hometowns," Walter Thompson, chairman of the AFI Advisory Board, said in a news release. "As urban areas attract more and more residents, it’s imperative for cities to create a built environment, fund amenities and form policies that get residents active and encourage healthy lifestyles."

The American College of Sport Medicine worked with the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and 26 health and physical activity experts on the methodology of the AFI data report.

Rankings were determined using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the Trust for the Public Land City Park Facts and other scientific benchmarks.

The rankings, and scores:

1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.: 78.2

2.  Washington, D.C.: 77.7

3.  Portland, Ore.: 69.8

4.  San Francisco: 68.7

5. Denver: 68.1

6. Boston: 67.1

7. Sacramento, Calif.: 66.8

8. Seattle: 66.7

9. Hartford, Conn.: 66.6

10. San Jose, Calif.: 66.4

11. Austin, Texas: 63.6

12. Salt Lake City, Utah:  62.5

13. Cincinnati, Ohio: 61.4

14.  San Diego, Calif.: 61.3

15. Raleigh, N.C.: 60.3

16. Pittsburgh: 59.9

17. Baltimore: 59.5

18. Virginia Beach, Va.: 58.3

19. Cleveland: 55.1

20. Richmond, Va.: 55.1

21. Atlanta: 53.6

22. Providence, R.I.: 53.5

23: Buffalo: 53.2

24. New York: 52.1

25. Philadelphia: 51.2

26. Milwaukee, Wis.: 51.2

27. Chicago: 50.8

28. Kansas City, Mo.: 50.4

29. Los Angeles: 48.3

30. Columbus, Ohio: 48.2

31. St. Louis: 47.1

32. Nashville, Tenn.: 44.5

33. Phoenix: 44

34. Orlando: 42.5

35. Riverside, Calif.: 42.5

36. Charlotte, N.C.: 42.2

37. Jacksonville, Fla.: 41.8

38. New Orleans: 41.6

39. Las Vegas: 41.6

40. Tampa, Fla.: 40.1

41. Birmingham, Ala.: 39

42. Miami: 38.4

43. Houston: 38.3

44. Dallas: 37.4

45.  Indianapolis, Ind.: 36.8

46. Memphis, Tenn.: 36

47. Louisville, Ky.: 35.2

48. San Antonio, Texas: 35.1

49. Detroit: 33.6

50. Oklahoma City, Okla.: 31.2

• For a complete list of Buffalo’s areas of excellence and improvement priorities, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, click here and download the metro area report.

Find out how you can help boost your personal wellness by reading about outdoor fitness opportunities in the region Saturday in WNY Refresh in The Buffalo News.

– Refresh Editor Scott Scanlon

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