OKC #2 Fattest City in America (without the P-H)

January 15th, 2009

This just in…Oklahoma City has been ranked the #2 Fattest city in America by Men’s Fitness.  That means amidst all of the dieting we have been doing, we have still managed to slide six spots in the rankings and are just a few burgers away from becoming #1.  A couple of the magazine’s comments that hit closest to home:

Basketball courts are practically nonexistent here, among the fewest per capita in our survey. There’s just one court here for every 12,162 residents; the national average is one court per 6,909 people.

Even recreational walking – about the easiest fitness activity anywhere – can’t attract participants in Oklahoma City, where people are 14 percent less likely than average to go for a walk, the 4th lowest rate of any city in our survey.

Hmm…are planning and public health related?  It appears so.  This does remind me that I need to get back to finishing the series on parks and public-space.  But until then, here is more info on the rankings…


  • Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: C+
  • Nutrition: F
  • Sports Participation: C+
  • TV Viewing: F+
  • Overweight/Sedentary: F
  • Junk Food: C-
  • Air Quality: B-
  • Geography: F+
  • Commute: A
  • Parks & Open Space: F+
  • City Rec Facilities: D-
  • Access to Healthcare: A-
  • Motivation: F+
  • Mayor & City Initiatives: C-
  • State Obesity Initiatives: D+

They add:

Oklahoma City lost points in our Motivation category for poor participation rates in running, biking and walking despite high air quality.

Ouch Charlie! That hurts! And a F+ in parks and open space!  That really hurts and its still hurting.


So who was number one?  Miami, yeh, who would have thought.  We are fitter than Miami!  Hooray, this is great news! I mean Miami has the sun, the ocean, and salsa music…and we still dominated them.  But other than that, all of the news for OKC is pretty dismal.  Here is the complete list of fattest cities:

1. Miami, FL
2. Oklahoma City, OK
3. San Antonio, TX
4. Las Vegas, NV
5. New York, NY
6. Houston, TX
7. El Paso, TX
8. Jacksonville, FL
9. Charlotte, NC
10. Louisville-Jefferson, KY
11. Memphis, TN
12. Detroit, MI
13. Chicago, IL
14. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
15. San Jose, CA
16. Tulsa, OK
17. Baltimore, MD
18. Columbus, OH
19. Raleigh, NC
20. Philadelphia, PA
21. L.A.-Long Beach, CA
22. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
23. Indianapolis, IN
24. San Diego, CA
25. Kansas City, MO

Obviously, Dallas and Houston are expected.  Also interesting to see Charlotte and Indianapolis, two cities we seem to want to emulate.  But maybe it has something to do with being in this part of the country…?

Perhaps.  It does seem to have some correlation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome it.


1. Salt Lake City, UT
2. Colorado Springs, CO
3. Minneapolis, MN
4. Denver, CO
5. Albuquerque, NM
6. Portland, OR
7. Honolulu, HI
8. Seattle, WA
9. Omaha, NE
10. Virginia Beach, VA
11. Milwaukee, WI
12. San Francisco, CA
13. Tucson, AZ
14. Boston, MA
15. Cleveland, OH
16. St. Louis, MO
17. Austin, TX
18. Washington, DC
19. Sacramento, CA
20. Oakland, CA
21. Atlanta, GA
22. Fresno, CA
23. Tampa, FL
24. Nashville-Davidson, TN
25. Pittsburgh, PA

Wait, why is Omaha in the top ten?  Surely we can be as fit as the people in Omaha.  I mean, we beat them in football.  Seriously though, there seems overall to be a very strong correlation between the type of urban form a city has and the fitness of its people.  Obviously there are a few anomalies that give us pause – like why is NYC on the fattest and Atlanta on the fittest – but there are a host of other factors that likely account for these discrepancies.  Variables such as climate, geography, age of population, ethnicity, and policy might all impact the fitness of a city.

Some cities are regulating eateries to help citizens make more informed, healthier eating decisions (click to enlarge).

Unfortunately, I don’t see anywhere that we got bonus points for our city-wide diet campaign, apparently the people conducting the test don’t know the inherent health benefits of Taco Bell’s fresco crunchy tacos!  There seems to be a higher priority placed on policies that affect measurable change.  So give credit to NYC for helping consumers make more informed eating decisions and for using its street infrastructure to encourage health and activity.  And to Boston for its city-wide ban on trans fat. And to Portland for their focus on providing first-class bike lane infrastructure.

As for OKC, we are talking the talk, but we are simply not walking anywhere.

For more details on the rankings, click here.

12 responses

  1. Jason comments:

    This ranking sucks.

    Maybe people (I guess I have to be included here) need to start figuring out ways to begin making an impact on this sort of thing – at the least doing our part to get our neighborhoods in a more walking/biking/jogging friendly state.

    What is the process? Goals? Expectations with city leaders/planners/officers?

    It seems that we need to start small – pushing our city council people to actually put in the bike lanes promised to many downtown neighborhoods, push for quality sidewalks and keep the city accountable for our city parks.

    There is no reason we have to be so high on that list – we have nice weather (most of the time) and plenty of space to begin developing places to keep people outside.

    Who is your city council person? If you don’t know, that is the first problem..

  2. Shane comments:

    There is obviously some truth to these studies, but we definitely should have gotten more points on this one for everything that Mayor Mick has been doing lately; tons of restaurants around town have healthy “Mayor’s Special” meals because of the diet campaign.

    I’ve found that many studies that are unfavorable toward OKC have “per square mile” factors like park land as a fraction of total land area, or population density, or even schools per square mile (indicating whether kids are able to walk to school). If getting higher on silly lists is a high priority we need to deannex about 250 square miles of undeveloped land. All that land makes OKC pretty incomparable in a lot of statistical regards to any other city.

  3. Curt Jennings comments:

    I think they need to consider that almost every church in OKC has a basketball court. That needs to be in their numbers. That is where I play. I don’t take their statistics seriously. They should go to every house and weigh people before I will find their little report card has merit.

  4. Grant comments:

    That’s a painful assessment. I think Cornett’s plan can have an impact on the national perception when it receives good press – and my hat’s off to him for pushing the iniative so intentionally. But with only 26,000 people on the program, it will take each of them losing around 478 pounds each to make an impact on our rankings with Men’s Fitness. But instead of just looking at dieting and fitness, we need to talk about having a walkable lifestyle as well.

  5. Blair comments:

    “They should go to every house and weigh people before I will find their little report card has merit.”

    Curt – that is some thorough scientific study you are calling for!

    Grant – I couldn’t agree more. I will join you in tipping my hat to the Mayor for creating more awareness of the problem, but also encourage anyone and everyone to take serious the impact that our built form and public infrastructure has on the health of OKC residents!

  6. Nick Roberts comments:

    We may only be the #2 Fattest City in America, but we’ll always be the #1 Phattest City in America. (in regards to the post title only)

  7. Jason comments:

    I think the Mayor has a nice idea for a program and people are excited for it but until he starts changing policy along with talking about it, what good is it? Don’t get me wrong – a “mayors menu” at Taco Bell is a great step………. I think everyone going in their is coming out thinner.

    Grant – I think you hit on it – walkability. Until more action is taken on that front, we will not move anyone on that list.

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