Despite closed gyms and shuttered fitness studios for most of 2020, Arlington, Virginia was named America’s fittest city for the fourth consecutive year.
The annual ranking of the fittest U.S. cities from American Fitness Index measured a variety of variables, including health outcomes, health behaviors, and environmental factors (air quality, access to outdoor parks, etc.) in every city in the U.S. Arlington tops the list, trailed by Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, and Madison, Wisconsin, as the top five fittest cities.
An elevated lifestyle makes healthy living easier.
Arlington has some clear advantages that makes it a shoe-in for the fittest city spot: affluence, not much food insecurity, an abundance of healthy options at restaurants and grocery stores, and access to outdoor areas for physical activity–which was especially key during 2020 when most gyms and fitness studios were closed.
“People in Arlington are fortunate enough to have access to numerous outdoor trails, tennis courts, and pools, and we’re near bodies of water to kayak or paddleboard. We’re job plentiful here, which attracts a big young population, and younger people tend to have a strong focus on being fit and looking good. The county has amazing fitness programs, as well, and while there’s no shortage of restaurants, a majority of them have several healthy options,” says Sheila Cordaro, founder of COR FIT in Arlington. “My husband and I are from small, non-affluent areas, and when we go home, we can see a difference and how there isn’t access to any of those things where we used to live.”
There’s even a vast difference in the types of food offered in grocery stores in Arlington compared to less affluent areas. We have a variety of grocery stores to choose from–Mom’s Organic Market, Whole Foods, Balducci’s, Wegman’s, and Harris Teeter, to name a few–and Cordaro says there’s only iceberg lettuce available at the grocery stores in the small town she hails from.
Something else that helps Arlington keep a fit state of mind? Its availability of several different types of workouts and boutique fitness studios mean there are tons of choices in the area–and the people here are affluent enough to pay their boutique prices, typically around $35 a class or in the hundreds of dollars for a monthly membership.
Many gyms have barre, kickboxing, pilates, spinning, weight training, and HIIT classes available, but the variety of boutique fitness centers like COR FIT, [solidcore], Pure Barre, CorePower Yoga, BASH Boxing, and more make fitness hard to not prioritize when people can choose one or even two studios for regular classes they enjoy attending.
It’s in Arlington’s identity.
In addition to variety, classes at studios also have a sense of community in common.
“(A lot of my clients) were motivated by group sessions, and it was a huge hurdle for them to stay fit. A lot of them didn’t have weights and then weights and bands were selling out everywhere,” Cordaro says. “But people learned they don’t need a lot of fancy things to stay fit.”
President and CEO of [solidcore], Bryan Myers, said that sense of community helped a lot of the franchise’s clientele through the pandemic.
“Even at the height of the pandemic, with gyms and fitness centers closed, we saw high levels of engagement from our loyal Arlington client-base in our at-home [solidcore] classes,” he says. “Arlington is a city that is filled with ambitious personalities who are focused on being their best selves all-around, which includes a focus and prioritization of their physical health, which correlates with mental health. This population felt more driven to take the steps necessary to stay mentally and physically fit (during the pandemic).”
Even as the Northern Virginia area is in a bit of an unknown stage because of the Delta variant, Arlington residents remain as devoted to their fitness classes as ever. Myers adds that they’ve seen a strong influx of new clients since reopening for in-person classes, and they’re even opening a new Crystal City studio location Saturday, August 7, with 19 machines, its highest number yet.
“Our new clients are excited to reinvest in their physical health after a challenging year, and were looking for an environment that felt safe to do so. [solidcore] is uniquely positioned within the fitness market given the small class sizes that we maintain, and because the nature of the workout provides ample space between clients and no sharing of equipment or moving about the room,” Myers added.
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