Park in Autumn

3 Reasons Why Washington, DC is the Fittest City in U.S.

No city’s journey toward healthier, happier residents is ever complete, but the District seems to be moving in the right direction. This metro area with a population of more than six million has been recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness Index as the fittest city in the U.S. multiple times, and it retained that title in 2016.

Taking into account a variety of health indicators and community resources, the American Fitness Index (AFI) aims to help communities identify and expand opportunities to foster healthy lifestyles. According to the AFI findings, Washington, DC, is outpacing the ACSM’s target goals in several key areas, including:

Percentage of people who smoke

  • Washington, D.C.: 12.6 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 13.1 percent

Death rate due to diabetes, per 100,000 people

  • Washington, D.C.: 146.8
  • AFI Target Goal: 167.1

Percentage of people who bicycle or walk to work

  • Washington, D.C.: 3.9 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 2.8 percent

For those who are interested in improving health and well-being, DC is overflowing with opportunities. Here are three reasons why we think the District landed on the list of fittest cities in the country:


Access to Parks and Other Fitness Opportunities

Is it any surprise that an area so full of parks also is a bastion for exercise? Consider these statistics about our park system:

Parkland as a percentage of city land area

  • Washington, D.C.: 21.9 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 10.6 percent

Percentage of people with a 10-minute walk to a park

  • Washington, D.C.: 96.3 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 63.8 percent

Total park expenditure per resident

  • Washington, D.C.: $346
  • AFI Target Goal: $101.80

The DC metro area is an incredibly popular place to hold festivals, conferences and events that are conducive to foot traffic. We boast an average of 28.5 farmer’ markets per 1 million people, compared to the AFI’s target goal of 13.1 per 1 million people.


Comfortable Climate

One of the reasons that parks, rec centers, public pools and walking trails are so prevalent and popular here is that they are easy to use for a large portion of the year. The city has a desirable climate with comfortable summers, relatively mild winters, and comfortable springs and falls. The average humidity is relatively manageable, too (just slightly more humid than the national average).

Our fitness-friendly climate and array of outdoor opportunities and indoor museums foster a cultural in which biking and walking are common and beloved.


Well-Educated People

Washington, DC, also has been ranked one of the five most educated cities, which likely is a key factor in our high level of fitness. The study, performed by WalletHub, takes into account percentage of adult residents and variety of demographic indicators. Many studies suggest that education levels often are linked to things such as income, healthcare coverage and fitness.

These factors and many more have Washington, DC, on a path to better fitness, improved health, longer lives and enhanced quality of life.


If you are passionate about improving community health, fitness and wellness, consider a master’s degree in Health Program Management at American University.

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