Miami's Vices: Fast Food, TV Make It Fattest; Salt Lake is Fittest

Miami residents aren't all following the South Beach Diet.

It is the fattest city in the USA and Salt Lake City is the most fit, according to Men's Fitness magazine, which has been doing the annual analysis for 11 years. The results appear in the February issue.

"When you think of Miami, you think of people being outdoors showing off their bodies, so this surprised us," says editor-in-chief Roy Johnson.

The editors worked with a research firm to examine the nation's 50 largest cities/metropolitan areas and grade them in more than a dozen categories, including the percentage of overweight citizens and the number of fitness centers and sports stores.

Miami received poor marks because of a large number of overweight people, a high rate of TV viewing among residents, long commutes and poor air quality. The city has almost three times as many fast-food restaurants as the average city. And participation is low in outdoor activities such as biking, running and fitness walking.

Claudia Gonzalez, a registered dietitian in Miami, says the city doesn't invite people to walk and exercise because of all the highways.

"If you walk in some areas, people look at you like you are strange -- like, 'Why are you walking when everyone else is driving?' " Exceptions include Miami Beach, Coconut Grove and South Beach, she says.

Gonzalez says she works with immigrants and finds that many choose inexpensive, high-calorie foods at fast-food restaurants, and they cook the wrong things at home. "They think about budgets and prices and tend to buy what is on sale. They aren't aware of the good choices they could be making when eating out and at home," she says.

On the other hand, Salt Lake City got high marks for its lower obesity rates, many athletically motivated residents, low TV viewing and abundance of parks and fitness centers.

"These residents are motivated to keep themselves fit," Johnson says. "They are four times more likely to swim for fitness than people in Miami, and Salt Lake City has 11 times more public park acreage per capita than Miami does," Johnson says. "They talk the talk and walk the walk -- and sweat."

The purpose of the analysis is not to embarrass any city but to recognize places that help their citizens get and stay fit, he says. "For the cities at the bottom of our list, we hope this is motivation to do better." In previous years, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City were dubbed the fattest cities and later began efforts to combat the problem.