Miami's vices — fast food, TV — make it fattest; Salt Lake fittest

Miami residents aren't all following the South Beach Diet.

It is the fattest city in the USA and Salt Lake City is the most fit, according to Men's Fitness magazine, which has been doing the annual analysis for 11 years. The results appear in the February issue.

"When you think of Miami, you think of people being outdoors showing off their bodies, so this surprised us," says editor-in-chief Roy Johnson.

The editors worked with a research firm to examine the nation's 50 largest cities/metropolitan areas and grade them in more than a dozen categories, including the percentage of overweight citizens and the number of fitness centers and sports stores.

Miami received poor marks because of a large number of overweight people, a high rate of TV viewing among residents, long commutes and poor air quality. The city has almost three times as many fast-food restaurants as the average city. And participation is low in outdoor activities such as biking, running and fitness walking.

Claudia Gonzalez, a registered dietitian in Miami, says the city doesn't invite people to walk and exercise because of all the highways.

"If you walk in some areas, people look at you like you are strange — like, 'Why are you walking when everyone else is driving?' " Exceptions include Miami Beach, Coconut Grove and South Beach, she says.

Gonzalez says she works with immigrants and finds that many choose inexpensive, high-calorie foods at fast-food restaurants, and they cook the wrong things at home. "They think about budgets and prices and tend to buy what is on sale. They aren't aware of the good choices they could be making when eating out and at home," she says.


On the other hand, Salt Lake City got high marks for its lower obesity rates, many athletically motivated residents, low TV viewing and abundance of parks and fitness centers.

"These residents are motivated to keep themselves fit," Johnson says. "They are four times more likely to swim for fitness than people in Miami, and Salt Lake City has 11 times more public park acreage per capita than Miami does," Johnson says. "They talk the talk and walk the walk — and sweat."

The purpose of the analysis is not to embarrass any city but to recognize places that help their citizens get and stay fit, he says. "For the cities at the bottom of our list, we hope this is motivation to do better." In previous years, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City were dubbed the fattest cities and later began efforts to combat the problem.

Fattest Fittest
1 Miami Salt Lake City
2 Oklahoma City Colorado Springs
3 San Antonio Minneapolis
4 Las Vegas Denver
5 New York Albuquerque
6 Houston Portland, Ore.
7 El Paso Honolulu
8 Jacksonville Seattle
9 Charlotte Omaha
10 Louisville-Jefferson, Ky. Virginia Beach
11 Memphis Milwaukee
12 Detroit San Francisco
13 Chicago Tucson
14 Fort Worth-Dallas-Arlington Boston
15 San Jose, Calif. Cleveland
16 Tulsa, Okla. St. Louis, Mo.
17 Baltimore Austin, Texas
18 Columbus, Ohio Washington, D.C.
19 Raleigh, N.C. Sacramento, Calif.
20 Philadelphia Oakland, Calif.
21 Los Angeles-Long Beach Atlanta
22 Phoenix-Mesa Fresno, Calif.
23 Indianapolis Tampa, Fla.
24 San Diego Nashville-Davidson, Tenn.
25 Kansas City, Mo. Pittsburgh, Pa.

Source: Men's Fitness

This chart of the most fat and fit city each year for the past decade shows how cities rankings can change:

  Fattest Fittest
2009 Miami Salt Lake City
2008 Las Vegas Colorado Springs
2007 Las Vegas Albuquerque
2006 Chicago Baltimore
2005 Houston Seattle
2004 Detroit Honolulu
2003 Houston Honolulu
2002 Houston Colorado Springs
2001 Houston San Diego
2000 Philadelphia San Diego
1999 New Orleans San Diego



READERS: Do you live in one of the fittest or fattest cities? Do you agree with the Men's Fitness rankings? Why or why not?