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Wellness Wednesday: Let's Get to Work, Greater Cincinnati!

Let’s pretend you just took an exam.

You await anxiously for the professor to hand back your test. He or she announces your name, you raise your hand, and they approach you. As they get closer, their arm becomes fully extended with the test folded in half to hide your score. Sweat beads begin to trickle down your face thanks to the 90 degree temperatures. You reach for the test in return and see your score in giant red ink.

Whether your name is Cincinnati or Louisville, you just failed the annual American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) American Fitness Index with a total score of 52.7 and 31.8.

These scores  rank Cincinnati as 23rd and Louisville 48th, respectively out of 50 of the largest Metropolitan areas in the nation. The Washington, DC metropolitan area was ranked first with a score of 77.9.

A score of 77.9? What does this score mean?

With the highest score being that of a 77.9, I was hoping the professor might decide to curve the grades a little bit. Not this time, America! With such a score, this leaves the American College of Sports Medicine requesting a need for action. A need for more physical activity for all, even after the 50 metropolitan areas had an overall increase of 11.8% more individuals being active in the last 30 days and a 5.2% increase in total park expenditures per resident. The ACSM reports that we need to do more as a nation.

Why is this important that we do more? With regular exercise, we can reduce the risk of premature death, heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, Type-2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon-cancer, and the risk of falls. In addition, regular exercise can also reduce body fat and depression, while also improving bone health, cardiorespiratory fitness, and muscular strength.

Salt Lake City has been reported to be the most heart healthy with only 2.4% of the population reporting chest pain or coronary artery disease. Even with Washington, DC ranking #1, the ACSM reported that the area could still improve by making the following improvements:

  • Meet Centers for Disease Control (CDC) aerobic activity guidelines.
  • Decrease percent of population with asthma.
  • Decrease percentage of population with diabetes.
  • Increase acreage of parkland per capita.
  • Increase golf courses per capita.

For the Cincinnati metropolitan area, though the total score ranked low, there were many areas of excellence and the city even ranked #1 with a score of 79.7 for its community/environmental factors.

To be more specific, here are the areas of excellence for the Cincinnati metropolitan area:

  • Higher percent of city land area as parkland
  • More acres of parkland per capita
  • More acres of parkland per capita
  • More ball diamonds per capita
  • More dog parks per capita
  • More park playgrounds per capita
  • More golf courses per capita
  • More park units per capita
  • More recreation centers per capita
  • More tennis courts per capita
  • Higher park-related expenditure per capita
  • Higher level of state requirement for Physical Education classes

With the number of recreational areas just listed, you would think we were the most physically active. But, that’s not the case.

What can we do about our ranking?

Let’s first take a look as to what improvements have been made to our community. According to the data trend report from 2009 to 2013, the top four improvements for the Cincinnati metropolitan area include:

  • Decrease in death rate for diabetes. The death rate per 100,000 for diabetes decreased from 29.2 to 22.9.
  • Decrease in cardiovascular disease. The death rate per 100,000 for cardiovascular disease decreased from 232.5 to 189.9.
  • Increase in recreational facilities per resident. The amount of park-related expenditures per capita increased from $140 to $225.
  • Increase in number of farmer’s markets. The number of farmer’s markets per 1,000,000 increased from 14.5 to 21.5.

When looking at the areas total score, Cincinnati made a +1% change from 2009 to 2013. 

In order to improve our ranking, we must improve community education and awareness.

The ACSM American Fit Index provides each metropolitan area with areas of improvement. They report that the Cincinnati metropolitan area needs to do the following:
Increase percentage of individuals who meet CDC aerobic and strength activity guidelines.

  • Increase percentage of individuals who consume 2+ fruits per day.
  • Increase percentage of individuals who consume 3+ vegetables per day.
  • Decrease percentage of individuals currently smoking.
  • Decrease percentage of individuals who are obese.
  • Increase percent of individuals in excellent or very good health.
  • Decrease percent of days when physical health was not good in last 30 days.
  • Decrease percent of days when mental health was not good in last 30 days.
  • Decrease percent of individuals with asthma.
  • Decrease percent of individuals with angina or coronary heart disease.
  • Decrease percent of individuals with diabetes.
  • Decrease death rate of individuals with diabetes.
  • Increase percentage of individuals using public transportation to work.

As many of these areas fall hand-in-hand, the message is clear: The Cincinnati Metropolitan area might rank as the number one area with the most community and environmental indicators, our health is still poor because we do not take action. The Cincinnati metropolitan area has provided us with many recreational facilities to help us become more active.

Now let’s take action to ensure a fitter and healthier lifestyle. Thus, I challenge the entire Cincinnati metropolitan area to improve their 2016 ACSM American Fitness Index overall score.

Choose to be fitter by incorporating strength training and aerobic activity into your daily regimen. Choose to be healthier by not smoking, by eating 2+ fruits per day, and by consuming 3+ vegetables per day.

What will you do today to make tomorrow better?

To read more about the ACSM American Fitness Index, visit: http://americanfitnessindex.org/infographic-2016-american-fitness-index/.

- Joshua Reed is a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and is the owner of Reed’s Wellness and Fitness Training. He currently operates space in Ludlow and travels to see clients at their home or local park in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area. He strives to help as many individuals as possible be the best version of themselves.

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