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How Healthy is Knoxville?



By Angela Thomas

Knoxville is known for many things. The Sunsphere. Market Square. The University of Tennessee. But one thing it seems the city is not known for is being “healthy.” Or is it?

In 2017 and again in 2018, Knoxville was on the dreaded list of “Fattest Cities in America.” In 2017, PhysiciansWeekly.com named Knoxville as the 10th fattest city in America with Jackson, Mississippi, being number one, followed by Memphis at number two. Chattanooga came in at number six while Knoxville rounded out the top 10.

Likewise, in 2018, Wallethub.com published a similar survey listing Knoxville as the sixth fattest city following Memphis at number four and Mobile, Alabama, at number five.

This survey was based on three key dimensions: obesity and overweight, health consequences and food and fitness.

Sure, Knoxvillians like good food, and maybe eat out a little more than is recommended, but is the city really deserving of that title and place on the list?

Over 4,200 people headed downtown in March 2018 to participate in the Covenant Health
Knoxville Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K. Granted, not all participants were from Knoxville, but the vast majority were. Additionally, in 2017 the Knoxville Track Club listed over200 races in the greater Knoxville area with 2018 shaping up to have as many or more. The Track Club’s mission “encourages life-long physical well-being through running and walking.” These events and organizations help make Knoxville more active and healthier. So, if physical activity is an indicator of health, Knoxville has that covered.

And just because Knoxvillians like to eat out, does not mean they are making unhealthy choices. KnoxvilleWeekend.com published a list of restaurants last year citing “Eight Healthy Options in Knoxville That Don’t Actually Suck.” Included were city favorites such as Bistro at the Bijou, Tomato Head, First Watch and Paleo Café and Coffeehouse. These restaurants, along with many others around town, offer healthy alternatives. So, if eating healthy is an indicator of health, Knoxville also has that covered.

Knoxville currently boasts over 65 miles of greenway loops and trails. Knoxville’s greenways connect with the greenways in the Town of Farragut and Blount County, adding additional miles of scenic travel.

According to Outdoor Knoxville, “Greenways provide cyclists an offroad riding opportunity whether on paved surfaces or on natural surfaces. Greenways often run along natural features like rivers, streams, ridgelines and hilltops. Greenways often link neighborhoods to schools, parks and historical sites as well as other communities.” So, if spending time being active outdoors on the greenways is an indicator of health, again, Knoxville has that covered.

Recently, Pace bike share, powered by Zagster, launched in Knoxville, making 200 smart bikes available for everyone via smartphones. Knoxville was the second in a wave of cities that recognized the benefits of a modern, dockless bike sharing program. Riders can rent and return bikes from any of Pace’s 20 dedicated bike parking racks or from any public bike rack available throughout the city. Whether taking a leisurely ride by the river or avoiding downtown traffic and biking to a business meeting, it could not be easier to integrate physical activity into the day. So, if taking a bike instead of a car is an indicator of health, Knoxville definitely has that covered.

Being healthy is more than just a state of mind or going to the gym once a month. It’s implementing a lifestyle that includes a variety of activities incorporated into a daily routine. If races, greenways, restaurants and biking are any indication, Knoxville is taking strides at getting fitter. Maybe by 2019 or 2020, the city will top a new list of healthiest cities or at the very least will not be recognized as one of the fattest cities.

Knoxville has a lot going for it; offering options that support a healthy lifestyle is just one of the many reasons that Knoxville rocks.

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