Clearly I missed my calling.



I should be doing those national surveys that mislead as much as they enlighten, the listings of America’s cities that are the happiest, saddest, brightest, dimmest, healthiest and nearest to imminent death. These are no doubt compiled by earnest people devoted to the flawed notion that all things can be reduced to a set of data or even one figure.

Clearly I missed my calling.

I should be doing those national surveys that mislead as much as they enlighten, the listings of America’s cities that are the happiest, saddest, brightest, dimmest, healthiest and nearest to imminent death. These are no doubt compiled by earnest people devoted to the flawed notion that all things can be reduced to a set of data or even one figure.

A figure such as 28.

Some of the folks who say we need to be more active and healthy – they are entirely right – this week put Kansas City as the 28th fittest of the 50 largest metro areas in the country. In other words, plenty of room for improvement.

The five fittest areas, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s American Fitness Index, are the Twin Cities in Minnesota, followed by Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Denver. The usual suspects. The bottom three are San Antonio, Detroit and, pulling up the rear, Oklahoma City.

Good old Kansas City is in the middle, clumped with Chicago, Milwaukee and, ahem, L.A. and New York City. That’s got to be causing some heartburn in Manhattan. I must say a good slice of New York pizza is hard to resist, so perhaps that’s a factor.

The sports medicine folks list the good and bad, hoping we’ll take the hint. The Minneapolis-St. Paul list has lots of good – people are physically active, a lot of them bike or walk to work – and Oklahoma City tilts rather far the other way.

This feels like a parent-teacher conference for a dull fourth grader, but let’s play along. Kansas City has some good things: more than our share of parks, ball diamonds and golf courses.

The “areas for improvement” list is slightly longer. Compared with national averages, fewer of us get our daily five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, more of us smoke, more of us are obese, more of us have asthma, angina, heart disease and diabetes, fewer of us use public transportation to get to work. And we have fewer dogs. Who knew?

Having parks is great, but that list of negatives is pretty serious. The only insight I can offer, as one who lived for a few years in healthy Minnesota, is this: Lots of people live there specifically because of all the things you can do outdoors – in all four seasons. Summer is glorious, and the rigors of winter are what you make of them. People skate, fish, ride snowmobiles and ski. A halfway serious cross-country skier will be among the fittest people you ever meet.

Our attitude here is little different. Spring and fall can be awesome, but summer and winter tend to be seasons of hunkering down. Air conditioning saves lives – and let’s not make light of that – but is also encourages us to be sedentary.

Here’s the other thing I learned in Minnesota: If you move somewhere for the fishing, camping and hearing wolves howl but you still get caught up in too much work, too much this, too much that, you probably won’t achieve your objective. You still have to get out and do it, wherever you are. And you’ll live longer.



Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @Jeff_Fox