Indianapolis slips two spots on "fittest cities" ranking

Indianapolis ranks 46th in a list of America's fittest cities.

The ranking of the nation's fittest cities is out and the trend for Indianapolis is in the wrong direction.

It seems there is a new ranking every week, with varying criteria and credibility, but for many, the American Fitness Index is the gold standard.

Minneapolis ranks first in the new study, Indianapolis is 46th, down two spots from last year.

Those pushing for a healthier Indiana point to progress, like a new smoking ban, new bike lanes and a promise to improve our parks. But the author of the rankings reveals the gap to move from 45th to first place is significant. First in community or environmental factors.

"In the city of Minneapolis, just one indicator, they spend $227 per capita on park-related expenses. $227. Indianapolis spends about $38," said Dr. Walt Thompson, Georgia State researcher.

While policy changes sometimes seem complex, correcting personal health habits is complicated, too.

"When you talk about things like smoking habits and obesity rates and lack of physical activity, those are all the kinds of personal health indicators that keep Indianapolis down in the bottom 10 percent," said Thompson.

Kim Irwin is part of the "Top 10 by 2025" partnership.

"It is hard to predict. Really impossible to say, 'Okay, we are going to jump two spaces next year and two spaces the next and, lo and behold, we will get there'," Irwin said.

She says the focus, instead, is on the work - pursuing best practices.

"We know that we don't have good policies and good practices around healthy nutrition. We have a lot of schools that have high calories, sugary, the things we don't want our kids eating are in the vending machines and available to them," Irwin said.

Irwin is pushing for enhanced smoke-free policies in the donut counties and is pushing for more infrastructure commitments like the new "complete streets" policy.

"Anytime the city does roadwork, they are going to be making the street more walkable, more bikeable, more friendly for transit riders to the extent that they can. Every road is going to get better as we touch it," she said.

As that happens, that data will be included in future fitness rankings.

"I think you are going to see the ranking for Indianapolis, if not jump up, slowly climb up the rankings of the AFI," Irwin said.

The challenge is that other communities have goals to improve and get better, too. So to move up and make the goal of the top ten by 2025, we have to accelerate the pace of change and innovate where others aren't.

Oklahoma City ranked last in the study.