Men's Fitness: Houston fattest city once again

Men's Fitness once again has named Houston America's Fattest City, after our city "lost" that dubious distinction last year.

Mayor White reacted with his best John Kerry impersonation, attacking the ranking as "propaganda" while at the same time announcing a city initiative to attack the problem. Who knew our mayor relied on propaganda in setting city policy?

The Men's Fitness survey isn't propaganda. However, as Rob Booth points out, it's not really a model that truly measures what it claims -- how "fat" a city is. Here are the variables used in determining the model's rankings:

Gyms/Sporting Goods
Nutrition
Exercise/Sports
Overweight/Sedentary
Junk Food
Alcohol
TV
Air Quality
Climate
Geography
Commute
Parks/Open Space
Recreation Facilities
Health Care

Some of those variables are more easily measured than others. Some of the measurements are relatively subjective, to be sure. But those are limitations of most social scientific models. The big problem here is that an index of all of those variables really provides a better measure of something akin to "quality of life" or "general potential for wellness" than it does an area's "fatness." Indeed, one of the variables within the model purports to measure how overweight/sedentary an area is, which is what the magazine claims is being measured overall.

As a general measure of the potential for wellness or quality of life of an area, it's not a horrible model. One could quibble with some of the variables and construct a model that produces wildly different results. But the main problem with this model is that it doesn't measure what Men's Fitness claims.

And as quality of life goes, we think Houston has some advantages that aren't being captured by the Men's Fitness model. So have a laugh at it, and enjoy the fact that Houston is a great restaurant town with plenty of bars, AND plenty of opportunities to get fit.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 01/06/05 10:04 AM | |

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