This case of mistaken identity began Saturday when The Associated Press reported on the sixth annual survey by Men’s Fitness magazine, listing the fattest and most fit communities in the country. Shortly after 1:30 p.m. Saturday, the AP sent a list across the the wire noting Arlington, Va., as the eighth-fattest city in the country.
Arlington, in fact, is a county, which should have raised a red flag. One version even had a note to editors pointing out Arlington’s listing.
Initial reaction from Arlington spokeswoman Diane Sun was disbelief. She said she had received a number of calls from local media regarding the listing. She even had a copy of the list sent to her, to confirm that Arlington had, indeed won the dubious honor.
“It was ludicrous for so many reasons,” she said. “But, there it was, right there in black and white.”
When she began getting calls, she immediately went to the source, Men’s Fitness. Unfortunately, the magazine’s Web site hadn’t been updated to reflect the 2003 survey. However, according to Sun, based on the criteria, Arlington was an impossible choice. She said in one of the first sentences about the survey, Men’s Fitness said it drew on a pool of the 50 largest cities in the country.
“I knew it had to be a mistake at that point,” she said. “First, we aren’t that big. Second, we’re not a city.”
Dr. Barry Beyer, the chief of Virginia Hospital Center’s family practice, said he has never seen a study on obesity rates for Arlington, but in his experience, county residents are healthy. He noted that factors such as an abundance of bike paths as well as access to quality health care help motivate Arlington residents to be health conscious.
“It takes a large personal commitment to be healthy, based on the multitude of other activities associated with living in the Washington area,” he said.
“Heavy work loads, stress, long commutes – many people are looking to balance the area’s negatives through exercise and good personal health.”
In an ironic twist, Arlington was cited, not for its obesity, but for its health earlier this year when Sports Illustrated named it the best sports town in Virginia. Sun said Arlington was selected based on a number of criteria, including access to health and fitness facilities and the high rate of community participation in healthy activities.