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Buffalo Niagara near bottom of "fit list"

There's no denying Buffalo is one of the best towns in the nation for eating. Food, food and more food is featured at so many festivals and other events - not to mention in the region's ethnically diverse households.

Unfortunately, according to a new study by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation, Buffalo may have a bit too much gusto for what makes the city popular. According to their 9th annual American Fitness Index, Buffalo Niagara ranks in the bottom third of the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas for fitness. With a score of 43.6 out of 100, we rank 35th on the index, which is used to educate the public on the importance of physical activity.

Phil Haberstro, Executive Director of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and Western New York, said we may be slow to the party, but the local climate is changing.

"Over time we're working towards now in our community developing a bicycling-friendly culture - terrific work by Justin Booth and his GObike crew, support from Mayor Brown. He's adding 10 miles of bike lanes a year. Commissioner Stepniak and his whole team have been very much a part of that whole picture," Haberstro said. "So bit by bit, we're starting to create that kind of environment in our community."

And that seems to be a national trend.

The index found a nearly 12 percent increase in the number of people who indicated they had exercised in the last 30 days. Also, twice as many states had policies that required teaching physical education in schools than last year.

Conversely, 19 metropolitan areas slipped down the index in 2016 compared to 2015. Those cities experiencing the largest drops were Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Sacramento and San Diego.

Although a lot of us complain about carrying around a few extra pounds, Haberstro said it wouldn't take much for the region to move up in the rankings.

"The Surgeon General's recommendation is that you get 150 minutes of physical activity a week," Haberstro said. "If you break that down to 30 minutes a day, that's five days a week you're going to get moderate physical activity in."

By the way, according to the rankings, the fittest cities in the nation are Washington, D.C., closely followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul and Denver. The rankings are based upon  the number of people who walk and use public transportation and parkland for physical activity, smoking rates, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

On May 21, the Buffalo Skyway and the I-190 offramp to Church Street will be closed to traffic for a GObike Buffalo fundraising event. The 3rd Annual SkyRide - GObike Buffalo’s signature annual event - is a bicycle tour that includes a scenic ride over the Skyway. Motorists should watch for the detour.