They are rankings that any community, any individual would like to be near the top of any way you slice or dice it.
They’re the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being rankings of 189 cities across the United States in the area of overall well-being, which encompasses physical, financial, social, community and sense of purpose. The report says the data and rankings can be used as a “call-to-action” for cities and their residents looking for overall improvement in their quality of life.
“Where you live can impact your health and well-being,” Michael Acker, general manager of the Blue Zones Project at Healthways, said in the report. “Innovative leaders are transforming their communities to create improvements in how people socialize, work, eat, play and move. These changes are empowering citizens to make healthier choices, be more productive and have better quality of life.”
Earlier this year, the well-being outlook for the Columbus metro area from the 2015-2016 period ranked the city No. 68 out of 189 communities surveyed, making it the highest-ranked city on the list in Georgia. The only other Georgia cities in the overall community well-being rankings were Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell at No. 83, Augusta at No. 87 and Savannah at No. 162.
This week, Gallup-Healthways released its community rankings for exercise in those same 189 cities, with Columbus coming in at No. 85 and showing that a little more than half of local residents, or 53.7 percent, get regular exercise.
That compares to the top-rated city of Boulder, Colo., with nearly 7 out of 10 of its people making sure they work out in some form or fashion regularly. In fact, Colorado’s Fort Collins came in No. 2 and Greeley is No. 4. California communities are represented as well, with San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles at No. 3 and Santa Rosa No. 5 on the exercise scale.
Rounding out the Top 10 are urban Honolulu, Hawaii; Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, S.C.; Anchorage, Alaska; Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky. (near Fort Campbell); and Chico, Calif.
“Innovative communities around the country are beginning to take an environmental approach to ensure their residents have safe and easy places to exercise,” the report said. “These communities are creating vibrant, livable, walkable, and bikeable public spaces and are investing in infrastructure that provides safe places to exercise and move naturally. Champions for these community health projects often include the local hospital or health system, employers in the area, regional and local health plans, and community leaders and/or some combination thereof.”
The Chattahoochee River Walk and the city’s rails-to-trails certainly fall into that category, as do the myriad foot races held downtown throughout the year. Columbus and Phenix City also have several parks which are always very busy in the late afternoons and early evenings.
Nationwide, the Gallup-Healthways effort found overall rates of regular exercise are at their highest levels in nearly a decade, with more individuals working out 30 minutes or more a day and at least three days a week. At the same time, the number of individuals not exercising at all has declined, with exercise rates varying, naturally, by gender, age, ethnicity and income.
It also wasn’t surprising that in communities where people exercised more, it connected to other positive and healthy behaviors, the report said. For instance, residents in those areas ate better with more fresh produce and had lower smoking rates. That led to a significantly lower disease burden and lower rates of obesity, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart attacks than in those cities where exercise wasn’t as common.
“High exercise communities also have residents who report higher rates of smiling, enjoyment and happiness, and they evaluate their current and future lives more positively,” the report said. “From a community well-being perspective, high exercise communities have populations who feel safer and more secure, have more pride in their communities, and have higher rates of impactful volunteerism. Finally, these high exercise communities also have higher purpose well-being, with residents who more frequently reach their goals and learn or do something interesting each day.”
That said, the communities at the bottom of the exercise rankings were Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C., which was No. 189. Working back up the list from the bottom, the cities included Akron, Ohio; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Montgomery, Ala.; Toledo, Ohio; Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Spartanburg, S.C.; Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Miss.; Rockford, Ill.; and Roanoke, Va.
Other Georgia metro areas on the list and their rankings are Savannah, No. 29; Chattanooga, Tenn.-Ga., No. 110; Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, No. 113; and Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C., No. 116. Other Alabama cities and their rankings on the list are Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, No. 58; Mobile, No. 97; and Birmingham-Hoover, No. 147.