The Fittest Cities-They Are Worth Paying Attention To

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In June, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) awarded their number-one ranking for fittest metropolitan area to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, for the third year in a row. Last week, Virginia Beach, Virginia, won Facebook’s number-one ranking for the same title.  But were these rankings based on the same factors and set to be used for the same purposes?  Club Industry took a good look at both claims and explained the differences. The ACSM based its list on factors like the level of chronic disease conditions, access to health care and community resources that support physical activity, number of pedestrians and bikers, and park-land as a percentage of city land area in the nation’s 50 biggest metro areas. Facebook based its list on number of fitness-related mentions, check-ins, and fitness apps used on the social networking site over three months for cities with at least 200,000 Facebook users.  ACSM’s list aims to help cities become healthier; Facebook’s aims to show how people use the site to track their fitness goals and progress.

So which is correct? And, more importantly, why should it matter to you?

Because the lists differ so vastly in their intents and criteria, it’s impossible to say one is right and the other is wrong.  Either way, they are both worth paying attention to, because they can help you make decisions about how to improve your gym or health center.

The main thing is to consider your own reasons for being interested. Do you want to know which cities have the most health clubs, so that you can better gauge where to open a new branch?  Take a look at Facebook’s list — it’ll give you a sense of where people in a given city are working out, what they like to do at the gyms they visit, and how close those gyms bring them to reaching their fitness goals.  Then, figure out how your facility might differentiate itself in a given market.

Or are you more interested in understanding what exercisers in your city are doing instead of checking in at the gym? Are there many public resources for fitness activities offered by the city? Perhaps they’re enrolling in free community yoga classes, or in group runs in the park. The ACSM list will help you there, and knowing which activities the general population is choosing can help you pinpoint areas you need to improve in your own business or offerings you might add.

What about cities that don’t make it on to either list? After Minneapolis-St. Paul, ACSM includes in its top ten, in order: Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Hartford (Connecticut), Sacramento,  Portland (Oregon), Seattle, Denver, and Austin (Texas).

After Virginia Beach, Facebook includes, in order: Colorado Springs, Austin (Texas), San Antonio, Livingston (New Jersey), Portland (Oregon), El Paso, Oklahoma City, Tacoma, Washington, and Albuquerque. Pasadena, California, and Portland, Maine made it on to both lists.  Does that mean those might be cities worth venturing into, if you’re looking to expand your business? Are there markets in those cities and in others that don’t make the cut just waiting for a gym like yours to move in?

The Fittest Cities-They Are Worth Paying Attention To.  There’s rich information to be mined from each list, and your facility can only benefit from rich information.

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