Houston Ranks Low in Health, Fitness Survey (But We're Better Than Dallas!)

Categories: Spaced City

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Photo by Arctic Warrior
Houston ranked in the lower half on a fitness index of 50 cities.
Updated 3:30 p.m.: The article was updated to clarify the study and include comment from a study co-author.

It might be all that barbecue, the late-night bar hopping or the fact it just makes more sense to drive wherever you have to go (we really wish we had the adventurous spirit of you daily bicycle riders), but Houston recently ranked not too far from the bottom of the American Fitness Index.

We smoke more, are more obese, and have a higher rate of heart disease and diabetes than the top 25 percent of the cities ranked in the survey.

We're not sure how many more health initiatives we need to remind people to get out and walk, enjoy our parks and take their vitamins. Out of the 50 metropolitan areas surveyed, the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area got 44 out of 100 points, which ranked us in 35th place. Washington, D.C., scored a 77.3, which put it at the top of the list.

Among the areas we need to improve is more spending per capita on recreational space, and we need to eat more veggies, the co-author of the study, Dr. Walt Thompson, explained to Hair Balls.

The report was created by the American College of Sports Medicine, along with the Amerigroup Foundation, and according to a statement, the report "reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, and community resources and policies that support physical activity."

A closer look at the health factors taken into consideration in the study, which pulled data from the U.S. Census and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, gave a personal health indicator number of 73 percent for the number of people doing exercise at least once a month.

As far as personal health is concerned, Houston ranks 22, which isn't bad, Thompson said. "Relative to Houston, it appears that folks want to be healthy, but the community indicators, the environment, isn't very helpful."

How so? It has to do with how much money is spent in park-related expenditures per capita. While Houston ranks in the top 20 in percentage of city land that's park space, the amount of money spent per person is $38. Washington, D.C. spends $398 per person, and the goal generated by evaluating the top cities should be $102 per person.

"There's a lot of park land available, it's just that they're not spending a lot of money or close to the target, which is 10.6 percent, and Houston is at 13.4 percent," Thompson said. "The parks are there, but it doesn't seem like the city is paying much attention."

Of course it's much more than heading out to the park that determines our health. We enjoy our cigarettes here since 16 percent of us smoke, and only 30 percent of us eat at least two fruits a day, according to the data. On the positive site, data also showed that at least a quarter of the 6.2 million people living here were getting their CDC-recommended allowance of anaerobic exercise.

Our death rate from heart disease was pretty high, though, at 188.8 people for each 100,000 residents (the goal, according to the study, is 167.1 people) Our rate for diabetes, 17.1, is almost double the target rate. Thompson, of the American College of Sports Medicine, American Fitness Index, and a professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said there's a combination of factors that lead to this side of the health equation, but points to the percentage for smoking, as well as the data that showed Houston doesn't like to eat its vegetables (16.8 percent of us versus 19.6 percent in more healthy cities). Just one-third of the population eats its fruit.

So who is less healthy than we are?
Phoenix was right behind us, followed by Las Vegas. Dallas ranked 38 and San Antonio was 45. In Texas, we have only Austin to look up to since it ranked 14. Memphis was at the bottom of the list.

For a complete list of the 50 cities ranked, look at the next page.


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