The Fitness Index annually evaluates America’s 100 largest cities using 33 health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure indicators. The Fitness Index added air quality as one of the built environment indicators of a healthy and fit city for the first time in 2019.
Long Beach is ranked #100, with residents enjoying good air quality just 10% of the time. That means residents spend most of the year breathing polluted air that is harmful to their health. The 100 cities average just 62% of the year with good air quality. Los Angeles, California.; Gilbert, Arizona; Phoenix, Arizona; Scottsdale, Arizona; Chandler, Arizona; Mesa, Arizona; Glendale, Arizona; Riverside, California and Bakersfield, California round out the bottom 10 for air quality.
“Exposure to air pollution has been linked to adverse health outcomes including a higher risk for developing asthma and adverse pregnancy outcomes,” said American Fitness Index Advisory Board member Elizabeth A. Joy, M.D., M.P.H., FACSM. “Our research-backed Fitness Index rankings aim to help communities achieve healthier populations by providing tailored guidance and resources.”
Geography, weather, automobile use and industrial emissions all play a role in a city’s air quality. Local policies and practices like car-free days/events, maintaining or upgrading city vehicles, quality checks on automobile exhaust and better control of industrial emissions can help mitigate harmful air pollution that impacts all residents.
“While air pollution adversely affects health, the benefits of being physically active outweigh the risks for most healthy individuals,” added Joy. “Individuals can follow a few simple tips to maintain an active lifestyle when air quality is poor.”
Those tips include:
- Exercise earlier in the day (air pollution tends to accumulate throughout the day).
- Avoid outdoor activity during commuting time since most air pollution comes from tailpipes.
- Exercise away from heavily trafficked roadways.
- Consider indoor physical activity.
- Remember, a scarf or paper mask does not protect you from the poor air quality.
According to the 2019 Fitness Index, the 10 worst cities for air quality are:
- Long Beach, California
- Los Angeles, California
- Gilbert, Arizona
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Scottsdale, Arizona
- Chandler, Arizona
- Mesa, Arizona
- Glendale, Arizona
- Riverside, California
- Bakersfield, California
Access the full rankings and scores, summary report, city comparison tool and other insights on the American Fitness Index.
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