You’ve most likely heard by now that the City of Falls Church was ranked as the healthiest community in the country by U.S. News & World Report out of 3,000 communities nationwide. I know, I know, it’s just another trophy on the wall for a City that boasts a nationally renowned education system, public accommodations and civic engagement (it’s great to be on top, in case you were wondering).
But the News-Press wanted to hear from local fitness establishments about why they think the Little City has so many Hans & Franzes and Olivia Newton Johns within its borders. So we scoured the area and gathered input from some of highest and fittest minds of all the land, and were pleasantly surprised by what we found — though they weren’t necessarily surprised by the ranking themselves.
“I wasn’t especially surprised,” Crossfit Falls Church owner Curtis Blake said. It’s a pretty active and vibrant community with lots of opportunities to get out and do stuff. There’s no shortage of healthy activities in Northern Virginia.”
Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised either. According to the City’s Chief Deputy Commissioner of Revenue Denise Vukmirovich, Falls Church has 24 fitness-related businesses ranging from yoga to martial arts to conventional gyms crammed into its 2.3 square mile boundary.
Of the businesses interviewed for this story – Body Dynamics, Inc. and Functional Fitness VA along with Title Boxing and Crossfit Falls Church – immediate area memberships covered a wide range. Body Dynamics has 13 percent of its members from the City with a total of 26 percent including greater Falls Church, while Crossfit receives around a third of its members from the City and Functional Fitness has roughly a quarter of its members in the City and jumps up to around 90 percent when considering greater Falls Church customers.
A host of exercise options has given City and area residents their pick of where and how they want to get fit. Although it’d be remiss not to mention the City’s increasing walkability and bike-friendly streets and trails throughout, including the Washington & Old Dominion Trail that runs through the City. That accessibility has given even casually active citizens even more outlets to work their gams, especially with a utilitarian biking culture having a strong presence in Falls Church.
“Our location puts us just close enough to D.C. (under 10 miles) for a lot of people to feel comfortable riding to work in under an hour versus taking the train or driving which would not only take longer, but is way more frustrating and not offering any exercise,” bike retail and service shop, Bikenetic, co-owner Jan Feuchtner said. “Many people (including myself) have found biking to work to be an incredible way to reduce stress and raise overall quality of life. The benefits are not just mental and physical health, but it also saves money when you add fuel and maintenance that come along with driving.”
The strongest aspect of the City’s physical health is that it has no age limit. Staying active even past a person’s physical prime in their 20s and 30s is an essential ingredient into living a longer life providing benefits like prevention and delaying of age-related diseases, increased balance and stability, improved quality of life and increased life expectancy, according to the American Senior Communities.
Benefits for adults in their 40s and 50s are not as critical to a quality of life, but are nevertheless just as important as people in this age range are typically experiencing the heart of their childrearing days. So regular exercise will help prevent you from throwing out your arm when your kid wants to play catch or being able to move your undergrad into their college dorm without crapping out halfway through.
“Our major demographic age wise is mid forties to mid sixties…Once people decide to put the time, energy, and money into working out generally that habit helps get other healthy lifestyle habits to be more a part of life and less a chore,” said Kavon Atakabi, co-owner of Function Fitness while Mario Gamboa, vice president and CFO of Body Dynamics added: “We have more seniors engaging in our programs. Our balance and cardio classes are busting at the seams. Pilates at Body Dynamics is taught with physical therapy and movement science principles in mind, so it attracts seniors who understand the importance of practicing their posture and core strength in a safe place.”
With many of the City’s fitness establishments accommodating all kinds of ages and workout preferences, it’s not hard to see how getting and staying in shape has become a selling point to those looking to live in Falls Church. A lack of exotic scenery that motivates you to feel the burn, however, masks the substantive wellness culture that the City embodies.
“We may not have beaches to run on or mountain ranges to hike like many would see as the healthy communities,” said Sam Heaps, co-owner of the City’s Title Boxing Club. “But we make up for it with living active lifestyles, taking advantage of excellent fitness facilities in the town and being conscious on what foods we put in our bodies.”
Falls Church has shown it’s invested in helping residents find the best version of themselves. If you haven’t caught the wave yet, there’s no better time than…now.