Globally, according to the World Health Organisation,
non-communicable diseases caused 36 million deaths in 2008, with obesity and
physical inactivity identified as major contributors. If no action is taken,
the number of lives cut short will continue to increase, and it is estimated
that by 2030, non-communicable diseases could claim the lives of up to 55
Research has shown that if public and private entities
worked together to bring back movement
into our cities, in terms of enabling exercise-friendly facilities to
facilitate exercise through urban planning policies and promote community
participation, as many as 1.3 million lives could be saved each year.
To increase awareness around this, and highlight the
importance of how living a healthier, more active lifestyle can impact
positively on our health and wellbeing, Discovery Vitality collaborated with
several experts in the fields of public health, physical activity, urban
planning and environmental studies to discuss the feasibility of creating an
unique algorithm that would allow a clear view of how fit South Africa’s cities
Discovery Vitality’s aim in developing the Vitality Fittest
City Index is to determine how each of South Africa’s six major metropolitan
areas rank in physical activity-related health and infrastructure that promotes
remain is a major concern
“The rapid rise in diseases of lifestyle is a major health
concern and we hope that the Vitality Fittest City Index will encourage policy
makers and local governments to create supportive environments which will
improve the health and physical activity profile of their city, and we’d like
the Index to act as motivation to encourage people to find opportunities to get
active,” says Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness at Discovery.
Data for the Vitality Fittest City Index was collected from
reliable, publically-available resources and research, and divided into four
categories: personal health indicators; self reported physical activity,
transport and sports facilities.
“Finding reliable data and extrapolating it to the metropole
level, particularly the facilities data, was very challenging,” says Professor
Estelle Lambert, a professor at the University of Cape Town/Medical Research
Council Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, and one of the
Fittest City Index’s collaborators.
“Factors that influence lifestyle choices, particularly in
the ‘ecology’ or the environment (social, physical and policy) are particularly
relevant in a country like South Africa where there are extremes between levels
of poverty and wealth,” explains Prof Lambert.
“This algorithm,” says Lambert, “is unique to the South
African setting and is among the first to integrate these data from various
credible sources to calculate the Vitality Fittest City Index.”
The results show that Cape Town is South Africa’s Fittest
The Mother City’s urban infrastructure gives Capetonians the
edge when it comes to facilities and an environment that encourages and
facilitates exercise. Cape Town’s urban infrastructure includes dedicated cycle
lanes and integrated bus and cycle routes. Cape Town’s residents have the
lowest car dependency in the country and are the biggest users of public
transport. In addition, the city also has the greatest number of sports clubs,
gyms, fitness facilities and parks per 100 000 people.
areas in SA
The six major metropolitan areas which were ranked in the
Vitality Fittest City Index 2013 are as follows:
1. The City of Cape
2. Nelson Mandela
Bay (Port Elizabeth)
6. Ekurhuleni (East Rand)
What Cape Town is getting right
Cape Town’s public transport network gives it an edge over
the other metropoles. Its MyCiTi Bus Rapid Transit system plans to deliver
accessible transport to the majority of the city’s residents to within 500m of
their homes within the next 15 to 25 years, including those in densely
populated outlying areas like Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain.
The first phase of this bus rapid transport system opened in
May 2011, with an express service along the heavily-congested commuter belt
from Table View and Milnerton to central Cape Town, as well as several feeder
Crucially, the buses allow bicycles to be carried on them so
users can cycle to bus stations and take their bikes with them. The city has
built a cycle path between Milnerton and Paarden Eiland which offer cyclists a
safer alternative to the regional road. The path is clearly signposted and
includes drop-kerbs for easy access. In addition, the city has an above average
number of sports and recreational facilities per 100 000 people.
Where there is room
for improvement in Cape Town
Capetonians may be rich in facilities but they’re poor in
health. According to the Vitality Fittest City Index Cape Town scored poorly
when it came to personal health indicators such as BMI, waist circumference,
diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Getting more people to move more often could impact
positively on these health statistics: local authorities need to ensure that
pavements are in good condition, that there is support for community events
like mass participation walks, cycle races and seniors’ walking programmes, and
by setting an example through their own staff involvement in fitness
Cape Town’s coastline also offers numerous opportunities for
water sports and community programmes that encourage water sport enthusiasts to
help teach novices. Beachfront promenades are the ideal venue for guided
Walking for Health events.
The purpose of the Vitality Fittest City Index is to
increase awareness around the health benefits of physical activity, and provide
insight in the current state of our nation’s health and to provide information
about what our cities can do to get fit and healthy.
This initiative will also help to generate healthy
competition between our cities to motivate behaviour; to provide information
around the built environment and resources that encourage activity and to set
policies which will encourage individuals and communities to engage in physical
activity as part of a healthier, active lifestyle.