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PHOENIX - A new study shows the Phoenix metro area has a lot of room to improve when it comes to the area's overall health.

Phoenix ranked 36th out of the top 50 most-populated metro areas in the American College of Sports Medicine's recently-published American Fitness Index.

Walt Thompson, an associate dean at Georgia State University and chair of the American Fitness Advisory Board, said the study looked at two main categories for determining the overall health of an area.

First, he said it took into account the personal health of residents.

"Those are the kinds of behaviors that you and I exhibit," Thompson said. "How much we smoke, what is the obesity rate, how much fruit and vegetables we eat."

The second category involved environmental and community factors, Thompson said.

"So it really answers the question: If I want to be physically active, if I want to be healthy, does the environment support that kind of behavior?" he said.

In the personal health category Thompson said Phoenix did fine, coming in at 20th. But when it comes to the environment, Phoenix ranks 49th.

Thompson said one of the main reasons for the low environmental ranking was due to Phoenix's lack of recreational facilities, despite its above-average amount of park space.

"There is adequate space for parks, it's just that the funding mechanism is not being directed to recreation facilities," Thompson said. "So if we look at things like ball diamonds and dog parks and playgrounds."

Overall Phoenix was given a final score of 44 out of 100 points. However, Thompson said none of the metro areas that were studied did exceptionally well, including the number one city, Washington D.C.

"The highest grade, if you gave them a grade, would be a 77 out of 100," he said. "That'd be like 'C-plus' in my class."

Mark Remillard,

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