It should come as no surprise that Oklahoma City has been ranked the most unfit city in the nation.
Actually, the dubious distinction goes to the entire metropolitan area, including Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, Lincoln, Logan and McClain counties, according to the annual American Fitness Index, which is sponsored by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
The metropolitan area received a dead last ranking among the nation’s 50 largest cities, with a score of 24.6 percent. By contrast, the fittest metropolitan area, Minneapolis, received a score of 77.2
Oklahoma City area residents exercise less, smoke more and eat less healthy than the average ranking in the study. Combine that with fewer parks and poor access to primary health care providers, and it’s a no brainer that the Oklahoma City area has a higher percentage of people with heart disease and diabetes.
Once dubbed the nation’s “fast-food capital” of America, Oklahoma City ranks high in obesity and low in the number of people with health insurance. Lower median household income doesn’t help the situation, according to the study.
What do the numbers mean in some real, street terms?
(1) We drive too much and don’t walk enough. The city’s sprawl makes it difficult to get around without driving.
(2) There are not enough healthy and inexpensive food choices at our local grocery stores.
(3) It’s difficult for some people here to see a doctor for a myriad of reasons, including lack of insurance and even just transportation. Mild health problems then become severe.
(4) The metropolitan area needs a lot more jogging and biking trails. It needs more sidewalks. It needs more interesting places to walk and jog.
(5) Oklahoma City has too much urban blight, which makes it unattractive for walkers and joggers.
(6) There is too much untreated mental illness and addiction in the Oklahoma City area.
The AFI study will undoubtedly receive some standard lip service from city leaders about the need for improvement, but the fact remains people here are stuck driving everywhere-and walking less-because of planning by city leaders decades ago. It’s probably impossible to rectify that basic situation now unless gasoline prices went so high people moved closer to their jobs and started walking or even bicycling more, but Oklahoma City and surrounding suburban cities need to accelerate their efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles.
Getting ranked as the most unfit big city area in the nation should be considered a major problem because of quality of life issues and economic development, but will anything get done about it?