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Fit Bay Area shines in health study

San Francisco Bay Area residents, feel free to pat yourselves on your toned, muscular backs.

A study of the fitness across the country has found that the Bay Area has among the fittest and healthiest people in the nation.

The annual ranking by the American College of Sports Medicine finds the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metropolitan area the fourth healthiest in the nation. San Jose ranks as the 10th healthiest.

In ranking the fitness and health levels of people living in the fifty largest U.S. metropolitan areas, researchers considered a number of factors, including community resources and policies that promote physical activity, as well as health care access, levels of chronic disease conditions and even violent crime levels.

In its “American fitness index” the ACSM rated the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metropolitan area as having several “areas of excellence,” including fewer people smoking, fewer obese people and a lower death rate for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The area was also given high marks for having a higher percent of city land set aside for parks, more farmer’s markets per capita, a larger number of commuters using mass transit to get to work and a higher percentage of people walking or riding bicycles to work.

The group ranked the San Jose-Santa Clara-Sunnyvale area as the 10th healthiest and fittest in the nation.

Sam Nussbaum, the group’s executive vice president and chief medical officer, wrote in the study’s executive summary:

“Being physically active is one of the most important ways adults and children can improve and maintain  their overall health. … For adults, regular exercise can reduce the risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and the risk of falls.”

San Jose received high marks in some of the same categories as San Francisco, but researchers also noted San Jose has a high percentage of people eating five or more servings of fruit or vegetables every day.

Categories where both San Francisco and San Jose needed to show improvement, according to researchers, were mental health and the number of asthma sufferers.

San Francisco also had a higher percentage of people with angina or coronary heart disease. San Jose area had a higher rate of diabetes.

The Minneapolis, Minn. area ranked at the top of the group’s list for healthy cities — for the second year in a row — while Oklahoma City, Okla. was ranked at the bottom.

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