Wellington crowned NZ's fittest city

A new report has ranked Wellington as New Zealand's fittest city.

The capital nabbed the title based in no small part on residents' commuting habits.

The rankings were made by insurance company AIA Vitality, and based on a public health study released last year.

Carried out by researchers at Otago University, the study looked at cities in terms of air pollution, public transport, and the ease and frequency of cycling and walking to work.

AIA's head of wellness Candice Smith says Wellingtonians walk more and take more trips by public transport than people in other New Zealand cities, with the data showing a  "pretty compelling win" for the capital. 

"Wellington had 35 percent trips to work by cycling and walking, [more] than say Hamilton city, where it was 17 percent," says Smith. 

The study showed that while residents in the capital were very active for practical reasons, such as commuting, in Christchurch people were more healthy in their recreational activities, clocking up the highest number of annual cycle trips. 

Smith says the environment we live in may play a bigger part in our physical activity levels than what many people realise. The challenge now is to create environments to encourage more activity.

"There is a huge amount that we can do to make our cities and our spaces more conducive and more encouraging for physical activity," she says.

"It's really about making the healthy choice the easy choice. When it's easy. It's much more likely to occur."

Smith says people can't be blamed for being inactive if there is no infrastructure in place to help them live a more active life. 

"It's not about people being lazy, it's about how things are designed to facilitate [health]."

According to AIA, 10 percent of all deaths worldwide are caused by physical inactivity.