So what is it, Lexington?
Are we a toothless, sexless, lazy horde sneezing our heads off from ragweed and getting by on far too little sleep?
Or, are we a city perfect for retirees and parents because we have plenty of parks, fine dining and friendly folks who also happen to be among the most educated in the nation?
Well, it depends on the month, the year and the study being cited.
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Last week, Lexington's dubious distinction of being named the least active city in America by Men's Health magazine was highlighted across the globe. The Shanghai Daily featured a story on its Web site. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert spent a full two minutes presenting Lexington with a "Golden Reacher-Grabber Award." (A reacher-grabber being pinchers on a stick for someone too lazy to, say, stand up to get the remote on the floor next to the chair.)
Colbert urged second- and third-place winners Indianapolis and Jackson, Miss., that if they wanted to beat Lexington, they were "going to have to wake up pretty late in the day." He also winked at the source, calling Men's Health "his go-to source for vaguely homoerotic fitness photographs and the hottest protein powder recommendations months before they are recalled."
The truth of where Lexington really ranks does seem to lie in both the data used and how it is reviewed.
Mayor Jim Gray said of the ranking that "we all know better, and we all know there's room for improvement, too." He added that he was trying to get in touch with Stephen Colbert to "let me wheel into his show on my La-Z-Boy recliner and accept the award in person."
While there, he said, he'd brag about Lexington.
Comparing the most recent Men's Health ranking to others can be confounding.
Parenting.com, for example, included Lexington in its top 10 for 2010 for families, writing that "among the many reasons families love Lexington are its 5,821 acres of parks, pools and playgrounds."
Enjoying parks and pools would seem to require leaving the couch and turning off the TV — at least on occasion.
"I wouldn't put too much concern" into the finding of Lexington being the least active city in the country, said Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics for the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
Crouch, who has crunched Kentucky's numbers for decades, likes to recall a study that showed, based on raw data, that Lyon County was the best place to find an unmarried man in Kentucky. Unfortunately, most of those eligible men were incarcerated at Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville.
"It's not just a matter of what the data is, but how you put it together," he said.
The sedentary city described by Men's Health is "not the Lexington I know," said Alana Insko-Kelley, race director of the Bluegrass 10,000, which she hopes will draw as many as 4,000 runners Monday.
Insko-Kelley, who works in Lexington's Parks and Recreation Department, said the number of runners in the Bluegrass 10,000 has grown consistently over the years. And, she said, nearly all the sports leagues offered by the city have waiting lists.
The magazine based its ranking on how often people exercise (based on a survey by Experian Marketing Services); the percentage of households that watch more than 15 hours of cable a week and buy more than 11 video games a year (data from Mediamark Research); and the rate of deaths from deep-vein thrombosis, a condition linked to a lot of sitting (as tallied by the CDC).
Citing other accolades that Lexington has received as a good place for families, Crouch said cable-watching does not necessarily mean people aren't exercising. If Lexington is home to a lot of cable-watching parents, they could be dancing with Elmo to entertain their toddlers. As the home to the University of Kentucky, Lexington could have a disproportionate number of college-age people buying video games.
When you pull together the results of various studies, Crouch said, "you can have a correlation, but does the correlation mean anything?"
As for the number of people who die of deep-vein thrombosis, that also could be misleading. It's a simplification to say deep-vein thrombosis is caused by a lot of sitting. Dr. Ehab E. Sorial, a vascular surgeon at UK, said there are many complicating factors, including smoking and genetics.
He said Lexington in general and the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center in particular are a medical hub for the state. Patients from across the commonwealth, including Eastern Kentucky, come to Lexington to get treatment.
A Kentucky patient with life-threatening complications from deep-vein thrombosis is likely to be transferred to Lexington hospitals that can offer a higher level of care, he said.
The more complicated cases are rare overall, he said, "but they happen a lot at UK."
At least one person says he is willing to put himself on the line to make a case for a healthy Lexington.
Eric Patrick Marr, director of the two-year-old, Lexington-based half-marathon Run the Bluegrass, used Twitter to challenge Men's Health deputy editor Matt Marion to come race him next spring.
If Marion wins, Marr said, he'll let Men's Health staffers take part in Run the Bluegrass for free. (That could add up at $50 to $70 a pop.) If Marr wins, Men's Health has to feature beautiful, healthy people from Lexington on the cover of the magazine. As of Friday the deal-making had shifted from the Twitter-verse to the "let's exchange emails and discuss details" phase.
Marr is optimistic that something good could come out of this latest blot on Lexington's collective reputation.
His message to Men's Health: "Give us a chance to actually show what's going on" in the Bluegrass.
In the end, Lexington residents can choose to believe the latest description of the city from New York-based outsiders. Or they can take solace in the fact that as late as 2009, one magazine thought us worthy of being ranked one of the best places to live because of quality of life.
Can you guess the magazine that dubbed us so?
That would be Men's Health.