Recently the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released its annual American Fitness Index rankings of 100 major cities. It is interesting to look at the cities where parkrun is already making a difference, and the cities where parkrun could make a difference. How does your city stack up?
All cities recognize the value of a healthy population. And it’s no secret that many American cities are facing diverse health challenges, including chronic diseases, obesity, addiction, and mental health. The ACSM Fitness Index is a helpful tool that anybody can use to see how their city stacks up against the rest of the country.
Check out your city in the ACSM Fitness Index.
The index is based on measures of physical and mental health, and it also track community amenities such as parks, pools, and bikeability.
ACSM also provides a great set of resources to help cities and community groups take action to improve the health of their community.
So where does parkrun come in?
Having a parkrun (or four!) in your city helps to connect the dots. It’s a great start to have parks, of course. But it’s better if they are being used to improve health. Especially if they are being used in a way that promotes consistent use throughout the year.
At parkrun USA our goal is to create healthy communities. This means that we’re not only focused on individuals and their physical fitness. We are also interested in the human connections that inspire people to stay physically active, and that help promote mental health.
We believe that consistent, community-driven fitness activity in parks and trails improves the physical and mental health of a community. We believe that volunteering is another form of healthy activity that promotes strong communities. We believe that social support promotes healthy habits. And we believe that stewardship of public lands supports healthy communities.
We also believe that families getting active together sets them up for years of health and happiness. And we believe that bringing people together across generations improves the health of a community.
Finally, we believe that it is possible to make a substantial difference with minimal financial outlay, if the right support and infrastructure are put in place.
So how is parkrun contributing to “America’s fittest cities”? To varying degrees, as parkrun’s growth in the US is just starting to take off. But many of the cities at the top of ACSM’s list are already getting to know parkrun.
#1 & #6: Arlington, VA & Washington DC. The DC metro area, with suburbs that extend into Maryland and Virginia, has reached the top of ACSM’s ranking, and it clearly has the strongest parkrun footprint. There are 5 parkrun events every week in the DC area, plus more in Baltimore, MD and Richmond, VA. There are 12,000 registered parkrunners in the region, and around 500 take part every weekend.
#2: Seattlle, WA. There are no parkruns yet in the City of Seattle proper, but the Seattle metro area is emerging as the second US parkrun ‘hub’. There are existing events in Renton and Des Moines on the south side of the city, and a third event starts June 15th in the tech hub of Redmond on the east side of the metro area.
#3 & #7: Minneapolis-St Paul, MN. The Twin Cities regularly top lists of America’s fittest cities, and great places to bike and run abound. The metro area’s first parkrun, in the southern suburb of Eagan, recently celebrated its 100th event with a record attendance, and it helps to keep kids, adults, and seniors active outdoors year round, even in the depths of the Minnesota winter. Additional parkrun events for the Twin Cities are in the early planning stages.
#4 & #12: San Francisco and San Jose, CA. San Francisco is home to Crissy Field parkrun, in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge, which draws parkrunners from around the world every Saturday. Further south, in Silicon Valley, a second Bay Area parkrun is in development in Palo Alto, hopefully launching in the coming months.
#5: Madison, WI. Wisconsin’s state capital is surrounded by lakes, parks, and trails, making it an excellent venue for a parkrun event. None just yet, but watch this space.
#8: Irvine, CA. This city in Orange County, to the south of Los Angeles, has a great climate for keeping active year round. And a team there is working on a parkrun for the city.
#9; Denver, CO. In the Mile High City it is hard to ignore the call of the outdoors, with the great climate and the Rocky Mountains on your doorstep. The closest parkrun event is in nearby Boulder, but we’d love to see events take root in Denver itself.
#10: Portland, OR. Portland is another city that is well set up for walking, biking, public transportation, and running. The climate is temperate, and there’s hills, forests and water close at hand. parkrun has not quite reached Portland yet, but it’s getting close – a team is hard at work in the western suburb of Beaverton, and they hope to have good news to share in the not too distant future.
What about some other cities where we have parkrun events, or are working on it? Here are just a few, ordered by their position in the ACSM Fitness Index.
#15: Chicago, IL. Working on it!
#19: Boston, MA. Jamaica Pond parkrun.
#21: St Petersburg, FL. Weedon Island preserve parkrun started in May 2019.
#22: Atlanta, GA. Working on it!
#26: Durham, NC. Durham, NC parkrun, with interest in more in the area.
#38: Richmond, VA. Deep Run parkrun
#41.5: Orlando, FL. Clermont Waterfront parkrun is within reach. The 34711 zipcode has more registered parkrunners (1,729) than any other zipcode in the US.
#52: Baltimore, MD. Leakin Park parkrun
#53: Tucson, AZ. Himmel parkrun
#65: Cleveland, OH. Working on it!
#73: Houston, TX. Terry Hershey parkrun
#93: Detroit, MI. Livonia parkrun
#95: Louisville, KY. Joe Creason parkrun
We also have free, weekly events in more and more small towns and cities that are not large enough to make it into ACSM’s ranking. And in some of those we may be having our greatest impact on community health.
For more about how a parkrun event can help make your community a healthier community, contact email@example.com.
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