Arlington, Virginia, has been crowned as the nation’s fittest city in three consecutive years, the year 2020 being the latest. Arlington also ranked top in the personal health category in the annual study of America’s 100 largest cities. The city’s top ranking is a testament to its well-planned transportation system that had encouraged people to use alternative means to drive. Instead, people in Arlington use public transportation as 22% of the city’s households do not even own a car because there is no need for it.
Arlington residents also have easy access to the city’s open spaces such as parks where residents enjoy walking, and safe cycling paths. In 2019, Arlington officials adopted a multifaceted plan to expand and improve the city’s bicycle transportation infrastructure to encourage residents to use bicycles as a mode of transportation.
The project would see that cycling in Arlington will be safer, with the additional benefits of providing more options by adding new facilities on critical bike paths and providing education on traffic law enforcement. The plan’s brilliance is its long-term vision of how positive city policies can push residents a step in the right direction to adopt healthier lifestyles in an age when an American dies of a cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds.
The CDC also estimates one in every four deaths is because of heart disease. Arlington board chair, Christian Dorsey speaking on the city’s bicycle transportation, said,
“Arlington is all about providing transportation choices. This plan, developed through a lot of thoughtful work by our community and staff, provides a blueprint for upgrading our existing bicycle facilities so that people of all ages and abilities feel safe and comfortable riding bicycles in Arlington.”
Arlington’s success has the potential to herald in a new age, one that can address our modern challenges, but for this to happen, other cities need to follow suit. Modern solutions such as creating a health-focused city planning will create opportunities that will bring tangible meaning to people’s lives and render a fundamental change in people’s health.
Barbara Ainsworth, the chair of the American fitness index and professor at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, said,
“We know that physical activity is one of the most powerful health-enhancing behaviors for reducing the risks for just about every chronic disease. People who live in healthier cities — that is, cities that have better air quality, better places to be safe for walking and cycling, where there are farmers markets for healthier eating, where cities spend more money on improving and maintaining recreational facilities — it makes it much easier for people to be physically active.”
The stats back up these indicators considering the percentage of residents exercising 92% in 2019 while a third of the residents met the U.S. Aerobic and strength activity guidelines. Professor Ainsworth’s praise for Arlington continued by saying,
“Arlington has knocked it out of the ballpark. It also has a low proportion of people who smoke, who have diabetes or heart disease. More people take public transport, and Arlington has wonderful facilities for being physically active: bike trails and walking trails.”
There is no doubt the effects of the novel Covid 19 virus, which wreaked havoc across the globe, will also be felt and disrupt Arlington’s continued success as America’s fittest city. However, the city’s achievements should be noted by policy planners as green growth is possible with the aid of the right policies. For this to happen, policymakers need to look into the overall health of the environment, focusing on people’s health. Perhaps many Americans’ lives would be saved, considering that millions of Americans are now struggling to afford insulin.
Do you think your city should model itself after Arlington?